2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 273-5
Presentation Time: 9:25 AM


DIMIZIO, Jessica J., College of Science and Math, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, 1 Grand Ave, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 and NAGY-SHADMAN, Elizabeth A., School of Science and Mathematics - Geology Department, Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA 91106, jessicadimizio@gmail.com

The STEM Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program, founded in 2007 by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in Science and Math Education (CESaME), gives research experience to pre-service and early career math and science teachers by providing 8-10 week internships involving authentic research at national lab facilities. These research experiences translate into teaching styles that focus on the process of doing science. This study describes one of the summer 2015 projects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that involved creating an instructional tool that would increase the quality of communication between mechanical engineers and geologists who are collaboratively designing ways to collect and cache Martian rock samples for the Mars 2020 rover mission. Geology and engineering do not cross paths in traditional education settings and communication is difficult due to the specialized language and processes of geology. Previous attempts to bridge communications between these two groups did not serve a large enough audience nor were they specific to the complexities of the Mars 2020 mission. Interviews with JPL mechanical engineers involved in the Mars 2020 mission provided the basis of what they needed to know about planetary geology to do their jobs better and to communicate with geologists more effectively. The result was the creation and implementation of a three-hour planetary geology course, as well as a one-hour introductory class, specifically designed to address subjects of concern, such as how rocks break, rock failures, and how tools interact with rocks. In addition, a series of documents with detailed information about general geological processes and terms was created. Preliminary results from voluntary evaluations have shown the course to be very informative and relevant to the work that they are doing. This experience will influence the way that I (DiMizio) teach in my future career as a GeoScience educator. In order to create an effective learning tool you need to understand (1) the motives of your audience and (2) what they need to know to be successful in their future endeavors.