Diego Austin, ’16 is happily knee deep in the trenches of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematic education (STEM) - an essential part of today’s school curriculum. As an Active Science Research Graduate Fellow at Merrimack, Austin discovered the power of research and observation, but his feedback came directly from the source – in this case, primary school teachers and students.
“Currently the STEM curriculum is for third through fifth graders, but my fellow researchers and I wanted to expand the program to incorporate first and second graders also,” says Austin. “We worked with school teachers around Massachusetts in order develop this.” Austin and two additional Active Science Fellows ran a STEM program at multiple school sites, where they provide structure for physical activity challenges and assist the students when they are doing the STEM lessons.
There is also a research and development aspect to building a STEM curriculum – and a mobile app. In select schools participating in an Active Science Program, Austin sent sample lesson plans and pilot tests to teachers for use in order to get feedback from the kids to see what works and what does not work for them. Austin then processed the feedback, reworked the lesson plans, and ultimately sent the plans to a developer working on a specific app for the teachers and students to use in the classroom. The goal was for the mobile app to be used regularly by as many teachers and students as possible.
“I decided on this research fellowship because I wanted to become more familiar with a new facet of physical activity involving the youth population,” says Austin. “What I specifically enjoyed about the research process was discovering all of the background information surrounding a specific topic. There is a lot of surprising information you can find that you did not think would relate and it could make you rethink your approach to solving whatever the research question is.”
Austin graduated in May 2016 with a Master of Science in Exercise and Sport Science. He plans on continuing his research and even expanding into the field of biomechanics.