FUSE Studios: An Alternative Infrastructure for STEM Learning and Interest Development

Project: Research project

Project Details


This proposal responds to a growing consensus that our formal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education practices are failing to engage the interests of today’s young people in meaningful ways and are also failing to set them on sustained pathways toward STEM-related activity in future work and later life. We have developed and conducted pilot research on a new type of STEM learning environment structured around a set of youth interest-driven challenge sequences, organized into levels. We call these environments FUSE Studios. The research and design framework informing our approach is drawn from a number of convergent sources, including the NSF-funded LIFE Center (Bevan, Bell, Stevens, & Razfar, 2012), connected learning (Ito et al., 2013), and video games as learning environments (NRC, 2011). In our work on FUSE Studios we are not building video games; we are abstracting participation structures from video game play to organize new STEM learning experiences, which are digital at times but are just as often tangible and embodied. In this proposed three year project, we build upon our pilot work and, in collaboration with our partners, pursue the following primary goals: 1) develop and refine a design-based research cycle that will develop new challenges and new sequences, and revise current challenges; 2) conduct original, multi-faceted research on these new environments and the learning experiences of participants, including making progress on research questions that compulsory programs (whether in school or out-of-school) make it hard to answer but free-choice experiences like FUSE make more amenable to study. Among these research questions are ones increasingly regarded as critical like persistence and a capacity to learn from ‘failure’, creative flexibility in problem solving, and choice as powerful indicator of developing interest in STEM ideas and practices. We seek to demonstrate a sustainable model for building and growing an alternative infrastructure for STEM learning and interest development and also a host of new methods that generate new findings about how youth learn to struggle, persist, develop interests, and work flexibly and creatively, all in the context of STEM activities.
Effective start/end date9/15/138/31/17


  • National Science Foundation (DRL-1348800)


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