Using Virtual Worlds to Inspire Youth in STEM

The Girls RISE Museum Network (http://girlsrisenet.org/ works to strengthen the professional capacity of informal science educators to engage and motivate minority girls to explore and pursue science and engineering careers. On May 6-7, teams from the California Academy of Sciences, COSI, Explora, Miami Science Museum, NYSCI, OMSI, Saint Louis Science Center, and Sci-Port met at the Miami Science Museum to explore using virtual world technologies in this endeavor.

Virtual worlds provide an immersive environment where users create a digital character, or ‘avatar’, and navigate through a virtual world, while interacting with real people from around the world. This platform is used by many institutions, such as colleges, universities, museums, libraries and government entities. The Miami Science Museum is exploring strategies to use this unique technology to spark excitement about science and lead young people to think of themselves as someone who is informed about science as well as can make a contribution to science.

Teams participated in an event for high school students in which student and RISEnet avatars met in an “in world” space for a presentation on “Solar Variability and its Impact on Climate Change” by Dr. Joanna Haigh, Physics Dept. Chair, Imperial College, London. Participants then interacted in the real world with the students to learn from them about their experiences with virtual worlds.

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