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Team awarded $3M to create new community resource for NSF

Ann McKenna
October 18, 2011

ASU is one of four universities creating an interactive Web-based system that will change the way the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education community approaches, interprets and synthesizes information that is produced through National Science Foundation (NSF) investments.

The project will help researchers and NSF program officers identify trends in publications and research funding, gaps in current research and funding, and potential collaborators in STEM education.

The “Deep Insights Anytime, Anywhere” (or DIA2) project will enable researchers and officials to quickly determine who is working in specific areas and find potential collaborators, funding sources, program officers, research papers and findings. The system visualizes complex networks of funding and research collaboration with a map created specifically for each search.

DIA2 is funded through a $3 million NSF grant as part of a program called Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM, or TUES. The team includes collaborators from Purdue, Virginia Tech, Stanford University and ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation.

“The wealth of knowledge and insights available through NSF historically has been difficult to uncover and almost impossible to organize for both NSF and the community,” said Ann McKenna, associate professor of engineering in ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation and principal investigator for the project. “Our interactive visualizations will be designed to systematically translate search and analysis in a way that is intuitive and easy to understand.

“This project is unique in that we are creating a resource that can be used by both the NSF and STEM education communities,” said McKenna. “Our ultimate goal, and measure of success, is to create an intuitive online tool that will accelerate the pace of innovations and their enterprise to benefit research and most importantly, STEM education.” 

Each of the four university teams is handling a different aspect of the work. McKenna is charged with the design and usability side of the interactive visualization platform. Other roles from the team include building the infrastructure, design of data mining algorithms and social media optimization to ensure rapid diffusion of the innovations fostered in this project.

“In addition to creating an invaluable resource to the research community, our goal through this project is to bridge the research communities and facilitate the transformation of STEM education,” said Mitzi Montoya, vice provost and dean of the College of Technology and Innovation.

The new Web platform will evolve from a prototype called iKNEER, or Interactive Knowledge Networks for Engineering Education Research, funded by NSF’s Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC).

Leading the work at Purdue is Krishna P.C. Madhavan, an assistant professor of engineering education. Sheri Sheppard, a professor of mechanical engineering, leads Stanford’s team and Virginia Tech’s team is led by Aditya Johri, assistant professor of engineering education.