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National Science Foundation Supports Research on Effective Computer Science Exhibits

January 22, 2014

With support from a three-year National Science Foundation grant, the Museum of Science, Boston will investigate different exhibit design strategies for building computational thinking capacity among diverse middle and high school learners. The goal is to identify how to support novice learners in making sense of and interacting with computational thinking tools, problem-solving strategies, and technical solutions.

This research will be conducted in the last stages of the design and development of The Science Behind Pixar, a 10,000 square foot traveling exhibition being developed by the Museum with the Science Museum Exhibit Collaborative and Pixar Animation Studios. The exhibition, scheduled to open in June of 2015, will give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the process used to create Pixar's groundbreaking films and highlight the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and computer science concepts used at Pixar.

Critical as computer science is, most schools don't teach it. This traveling museum exhibition has the potential not only to stimulate awareness and practice of computational thinking skills, but also to stimulate capacity, interest, and self-efficacy for computing and computing careers among diverse learners who may not otherwise have exposure to computational thinking. Exhibits designed in this project will support visitors to engage with the steps of algorithmic problem-solving. Each of the exhibits will undergo initial design and development, including formative prototyping with visitors and evaluation to ensure they are easily usable and meet intended educational goals.

The Science Behind Pixar will include screen-based activities and physical interactive exhibits inviting visitors to explore Pixar's process -- modeling, rigging, surfaces, sets and cameras, lighting, animation, simulation, and rendering. Videos of Pixar employees will highlight the educational and professional backgrounds of its computer animation experts and give first-hand accounts of the technological innovations that have revolutionized the field of computer animation.

The Museum of Science, Boston

  1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114  phone: 617-723-2500   information@mos.org