Dr. J. Bret Bennington, a Professor of Geology and chair of the Department of Geology, Environment, and Sustainability, was recently awarded an NSF funded STEM+C grant along with his colleagues: Stavros Valenti, Senior Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs and Professor of Psychology; Roberto Joseph, Associate Professor of Teaching, Learning and Technology; Lian Duan, Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Business Analytics; and Krishnan Pillaipakkamnatt, Professor and Chair of Computer Science. This project infuses coding and computational thinking into high school biology classes in six school districts across Long Island. Bret and his team have been collaborating with teachers from the six school districts on to create a modified Living Environment curriculum around App Inventor, a free web-based application that allows anyone to create apps for Android devices. The goal is for teachers and students to create apps for topics that need a fresh approach and have a repetitive nature to them. For example, transcribing DNA into RNA and then into the amino acid sequence of a protein molecule.

In having to code the apps, students will not only learn an applicable skill in the STEM field, but also have to understand the biology process completely in order to be successful. In addition, the high school teachers and students learn about computational thinking, taking large problems and breaking them down into smaller, manageable pieces. “Computing is ubiquitous in science,” Dr. Bennington explains. He is a paleontologist who used coding in his own dissertation research. The grant will measure if students using the enhanced curriculum are learning the biology better, if they are more engaged in both coding and biology, and if they become more interested in STEM or computation-based careers. We are looking forward to hearing more about the project in years to come!

If you’re working on an interesting technology research project, we’d love to feature you in a future post! Speak with us.