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The Effect of Pictures in Books for Beginning Readers: Attention Allocation, Reading Fluency, and Reading Comprehension in K-2 Students: Carnegie-Mellon University

Anna Fisher

[email protected]

The practice of using illustrations in materials for teaching children to read dates back over 250 years. In recent years, illustrations in books for beginning readers have become increasingly more colorful and engaging than in the past. Yet, there is virtually no research evaluating the effect of close proximity of text to colorful engaging illustrations on emerging literacy skills. However, there are theoretical and empirical reasons to believe that engaging colorful illustrations placed in close proximity to text in books for beginning readers may interfere with (rather that aid) emerging literacy skills. This research will examine (1) whether close proximity of text to illustrations, a typical layout in books for beginning readers, creates competition for attentional resources, thus interfering with reading fluency and comprehension; and (2) how the layout of books for beginning readers can be optimized to reduce competition for attentional resources and thus improve fluency and comprehension in beginning readers. <br/><br/>To address these questions, this project will use portable eye tracking devices to examine the patterns of attention allocation as children in kindergarten through second grade read books designed for beginning readers. Specifically, researchers will measure the number of gaze shifts from text to illustrations and the total time children spend looking at text and illustrations. It is hypothesized that frequent gaze shifts from text to illustrations are indicative of children being distracted by illustrations. Additionally, researchers will collect measures of reading fluency and reading comprehension. In a series of six studies, researchers will compare performance on measures of attention and reading when children read commercially available books to modified versions of the same books. The modifications to commercially available books will be aimed at optimizing the layout of text and illustrations to reduce competition for attentional resources. It is predicted that modified book layouts will lead to decreased frequency of gaze shifts from text to illustrations, and increased reading fluency and comprehension. Overall, this project has potential to uncover low-cost and easy to scale basic principles to achieve optimal design of reading materials to improve literacy skills of beginning readers.


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Feeding and Feedback: Understanding the Assembly of Galactic Disks: University of California-Santa Barbara

Crystal Martin

[email protected]

The growth of galaxies occurs as the galaxies gather gas from their surroundings to produce stars. The stars will then produce a 'wind' that is driven by starlight and energetic particles along with supernovae from the explosion of more massive stars. This wind serves to drive gas away from the galaxies which slows down the star formation rate. This project will study the flow of gas in and out of star forming galaxies by looking at how the light from distant quasars is absorbed as it passes through the gas surrounding the more nearby star forming galaxies. The project will also compare their results with cosmological simulations to better understand both the simulations and the status of the galaxies. The project will also enhance the educational opportunities for underrepresented minorities from elementary school to the graduate level.<br/><br/>As galaxies grow, they accrete gas from their surroundings to feed their star formation. As they form stars, they produce a galactic wind that drives gas away. This project will study the flow of gas in and out of star forming galaxies. The flow of the gas will be measured by observing absorption lines from circum-galactic gas lying along the line-of-sight to distant quasars. This will give us a better understanding of how gas flows in and out of galaxies as they grow. The project will analyze 50 new sightlines, sampling the circum-galactic medium (CGM) around several typical star forming galaxies. The project will then compare these results with cosmological simulations of galaxy formation, using the EAGLE simulations. The project will also perform a ?Look Back Study? by comparing galaxies at redshifts of ~0.2 with their lower mass progenitors a redshifts of 2. In this part, the project will look at clumpy distant galaxies and statistically determine if the clumpiness can be related to different outflows of gas. The project will also enhance the educational opportunities for underrepresented minorities from elementary school to the graduate level.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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In Situ TEM and Ex Situ Studies of Two-Dimensional Nanostructured Devices: University of Pennsylvania

Marija Drndic

[email protected]

Nontechnical Abstract:<br/>This NSF project focuses on an experimental investigation of novel two-dimensional nanostructured materials towards the fabrication and synthesis of one-dimensional electronic devices. This research combines fabrication of devices at the atomic scale in ultrathin materials with electrical characterization. The research team aims at advancing synthesis, characterization, and understanding of two-dimensional materials for an atom-by-atom control of structure-property-performance relationships while monitoring the evolution during device heating and electron irradiation and recording key device properties such as electron transport. More broadly, this project has impacts on education (university and K-12 students, on public forums: festivals and museum exhibits) and industry (e.g., on electron microscopy companies). The broader impact also includes the realization of low-dimensional materials and the advancement of devices including miniaturized electronics with improved power consumption. Moreover, this project impacts industries developing on-chip nanoscale devices. Outreach to a broad nanodevice community and to the electron microscopy industry includes open source software for analyzing data as well as the development of a novel equipment for advanced electron microscopy. The educational part provides innovative multidisciplinary learning opportunities for students at all levels, at the crossroads of electron microscopy and solid-state materials science in the Greater Philadelphia Area. To exploit the specific nature of this research project at the interface of physics and materials science, the PI's team participates in large public events in this metro area: the Nano Day at Penn, the Philadelphia Science Festival and the Philly Materials Day. The research team gives nanoscience presentations to high school students at the Penn Summer Science Academy and participates in the STEM outreach in the Philadelphia School District.<br/><br/><br/>Technical Abstract:<br/>This project exploits materials growth and materials irradiation by electron and ion beams to modify materials with nm-scale spatial and density control, towards engineering of their properties and observations of emerging phenomena that arise when material and device sizes are reduced and when single atomic layers of materials are stacked in a well-defined manner. This work establishes a more complete understanding of transport in low-dimensional materials that can enhance or replace silicon in future electronic-based devices. Thin atomic sheets are of particular interest since their electrical properties can be tuned by their geometry. Utilizing a novel experimental platform pioneered by the PI and state-of-the-art transmission electron microscopy instrumentation along with ex situ Raman spectroscopy, photoluminescence, and low temperature measurements, this project aims at understanding and controlling properties of thin materials such as nanosculpted structures for new multi-terminal electronic devices and few-nm-wide metal dichalcogenide nanoribbons. This research includes a comprehensive analysis toolkit enabling sub-angstrom device fabrication and atomically resolved property analysis. This work also advances device fabrication and characterization, thus opening the door to a wealth of unexplored physics. This research is organized into three primary cross-cutting themes: (1) growth, stacking, and electron microscopy characterization of two-dimensional layers and heterostructures, (2) electron beam nanosculpting and processing into one-dimensional nanodevices, and (3) nanodevice measurements. This project focuses on new materials including graphene, transition metal dichalcogenides (MoS2 and WS2) and topological thermoelectrics (Bi2Se3).<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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CHS: Small: Emotion-Aware Internet-of-Things Based on Analysis of Speech and Physiological Data: University of Notre Dame

Christian Poellabauer

[email protected]

The Internet of Things describes a network of devices capable of connecting hundreds of billions of devices, and then sensing and communicating information required for a wide range of uses such as healthcare, vehicular systems, and industrial environments. As one of the most natural ways of communication, speech will increasingly be used as the primary form of interaction between humans and Internet of Things devices. In recent years, research has shown that there are clear links between the emotional and mental state of an individual and certain patterns in the individual's speech. If these patterns are detected in a timely fashion, it is possible to build emotion-aware Internet of Things solutions. This could be used to adapt a system to better meet the needs of the user, to prevent human error, to detect and prevent potentially malicious user activities, and to initiate medical interventions. Therefore, the overarching goal of this project is to advance speech-based emotion analysis to enable the design of such emotion-aware Internet of Things solutions. The project will also enrich the team's ongoing outreach and educational goals, including mentorship of minority and high-school students, revision of existing and development of new courses aligned with the research challenges in the project, and tight integration of research activities and undergraduate education.<br/><br/>The technical challenges in the project are organized into three main thrusts. First, the project will develop and evaluate multi-modal emotion detection systems, where speech analysis is coupled with other physiological metrics such as heart rate, galvanic skin response, or skin temperature, to more accurately determine an individual's emotional state. Second, the work will apply the concept of topic modeling to perform context-aware analysis of speech data, which will also assist in differentiating short-term emotions (i.e., the current mood of an individual) from long-term emotions (e.g., depression). Topic modeling is an increasingly popular technique to learn, recognize, and extract the topics of spoken commands or conversations, providing additional context information for more accurate emotion analysis. The primary outcomes of the first two thrusts will be new insights into the design and development of emotion-aware systems. However, to achieve this goal, a comprehensive database containing speech and physiological data (annotated with the emotional states of the users) will be required, and therefore, the third thrust of the project will build such a database. When completed, this database will contain speech samples and other data from over 500 individuals and the database will be made available to the general scientific community to advance research beyond the team's institution.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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Mechanisms of Equilibration in Block Copolymer Micelles: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Timothy Lodge

[email protected]

Non-Technical Summary<br/><br/> Nanostructured materials that are formed by a class of extremely large molecules, advanced plastics called block copolymers, are of growing importance in a variety of emerging technologies. Examples include drug-eluting coatings on stents to prevent rejection; viscosity modifiers in synthetic motor oils to boost fuel economy; vehicles for delivery of therapeutic agents to specific cells, such as cancers; membranes to enable lighter weight, non-flammable lithium batteries. In all of these applications, and many more, the nanostructure is created through the "bottom-up" process of self-assembly, whereby the molecules are carefully designed to produce the intended structure. However, a fundamental problem of widespread importance is to understand the process of self-assembly itself. In particular, it is essential to know whether the resulting nanostructure is the most favorable, equilibrium one, or whether in fact the system has become structure-trapped in a so-called "metastable" state. With this knowledge, it will be possible to tailor a commercial process to produce the most useful nanostructure, reliably and reproducibly, in the shortest possible time. Graduate students trained in this project will acquire a broad suite of skills in chemical synthesis and materials characterization. They will also have extensive opportunities to present technical talks and posters to external audiences, as well as to mentor talented undergraduates. High school students from the greater Twin Cities, particularly women and underrepresented minorities, will be exposed to polymer science through Polymer Day: You Make It, You Break It, a hands-on component of a broader Discover STEM week-long summer camp. A new version, American Indian Materials Week, will be developed, to serve to a drastically underrepresented group in STEM fields. <br/><br/><br/>Technical Summary<br/> <br/> It is the overarching goal of this proposal to elucidate the molecular-level mechanisms by which block copolymer nanostructures achieve equilibrium. By focusing primarily on solution assemblies, i.e., micelles, the molecular factors that dictate the barriers to single chain exchange will be quantified, and then collective motions, such as fusion or fragmentation, will be addressed. The cornerstone of the approach is time-resolved small-angle neutron scattering, which provides an unrivaled, quantitative measure of chain exchange kinetics. Collective motions will require additional tools, such as fluorescence. Structural characterization by small-angle X-ray scattering, dynamic light scattering, and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy will also be important. The use of ionic liquid solvents brings multiple advantages, including the ability to tune thermodynamic interactions precisely, the relative ease of designing both UCST and LCST systems, and the remarkably broad accessible temperature range. The research will aim to answer eight questions: (i) What is the functional dependence of chain exchange barriers on quality. (ii) What is the functional dependence on corona block length? (iii) What is the relationship between chain exchange and the relaxation time of an analogous triblock gel? (iv) How does exchange depend on micelle morphology? (v) What factors control the rates of micelle fragmentation and fusion? (vi) How do micelles equilibrate with respect to aggregation number? (vii) How do mixtures of different micelles equilibrate? (viii) How do these barriers evolve with concentration, from dilute systems to melts?


InventXRLearn TechResearchXR


Gilles Basset

[email protected]

This project aims to identify and engineer plant and microbial enzymes that are required for the production of beneficial molecules like vitamins, dietary antioxidants, and plant compounds that participate in photosynthesis or defense against pests. This research will generate novel targets for plant breeders and metabolic engineers who seek to increase crop value, nutritional quality, and productivity using the chemistry of nature. Because this project combines multidisciplinary expertise in biology, chemistry, and computing, it will provide opportunities to students and postdoctoral researchers to further their career development in a broad range of skills and interests. This cross-disciplinary training is in high-demand in academia, private industry and in government. This project also includes a pilot outreach program aimed at raising nutritional awareness in children of middle school age and their parents.<br/><br/>Pilot investigations suggest that the redox state of a number of vital aromatic compounds determines their eventual methylation and/or further lactonization (cyclization) in vivo, and that plants and bacteria have captured this chemistry to create regulatory nodes in their metabolic networks. Dedicated oxidoreductases, which have so far remained hidden to conventional biochemical and genetics approaches, appear to be central to these processes. This project aims to identify and characterize such enzymes, determine how oxygenic photosynthetic organisms use the corresponding reactions to control the biosynthetic output of some of their aromatic metabolites, and use the gained knowledge to engineer the cognate pathways. Specifically, the project will combine comparative genomics, gene network modeling, and biochemical genetics to: 1) Identify eukaryotic and prokaryotic oxidoreductases involved in the methylation and the lactonization of metabolites; 2) Characterize the corresponding reactions of oxidoreduction in vitro and in vivo, and propagate the resulting functional annotations and metabolic reconstructions to reference genomic, metabolic and enzymes databases; 3) Build synthetic metabolons that protect redox active aromatic intermediates from spontaneous re-oxidation. <br/><br/>This project is funded by the Systems and Synthetic Biology Program in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences.


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Emergent Unconventional Superconductivity at Interfaces between Superconductor, Topological, and Magnetic Materials: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Nadya Mason

[email protected]

Non-Technical Abstract:<br/>Computers are ubiquitous, yet typical computation methods consume enormous amounts energy, soon to reach unsustainable levels. Thus, an eminent national grand challenge is to develop a more energy efficient method with which to process information without losing computing power. This project addresses this challenge by determining the unique physical properties of unconventional superconducting materials, which could then be used to design a more powerful and energy efficient computer, referred to as a topological quantum computer. Unconventional superconductors are materials that exhibit useful zero-resistance states, but whose properties are poorly understood. The proposed work combines theoretical and experimental expertise to fabricate nanoscale superconducting devices, and investigate the different combinations of materials and electronic transport measurements that best establish and probe unconventional superconductivity. The results of the research help determine properties that may be useful in a quantum computer. The collaborative research team incorporates a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students in research activities and provides a rich environment for training in nanoscale and quantum technologies. Educational aspects are further integrated through course development, research-related seminars, and outreach activities that especially target groups under-represented in physics.<br/><br/>Technical Abstract:<br/>The goal of this project is to determine the symmetry and transport properties of superconductors suspected of exhibiting unconventional pairing symmetry as result of proximity coupling to topological and ferromagnetic materials. The aim is to both better understand complex superconducting systems and also to determine their potential use in electronic devices. The experimental effort consists of making phase-sensitive as well as quantum transport measurements of the hybrid topological superconductor/magnetic structures to determine the superconducting order. The experimental research is closely coordinated with a theoretical effort that uses both numerical and analytic techniques to analyze the experimental data and aid in the design of new experiments. Key expected outcomes include: determining the pairing symmetry of proximity-coupled and intrinsically superconducting topological insulators; observing if exotic excitations, possibly Majorana, exist and determining their relation to the pairing symmetry; and developing new techniques for probing unconventional superconductors, including enhanced phase-sensitive probes. The collaborative research team incorporates a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students in research activities and provides a rich environment for training in nanoscale and quantum technologies. Educational aspects are further integrated through course development, research-related seminars, and outreach activities that especially target groups under-represented in physics.


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MRI: Acquisition of an 18GHz to 110GHz Millimeter-Wave Anechoic Chamber: Florida International University

Elias Alwan

[email protected]

Fifth generation (5G) cellular and millimeter-wave (mm-wave) networks are expected to play a significant role in next generation communication and sensing systems. Indeed, mm-wave technology provides multi-Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) data rates to mobile and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, projected to grow to 200 billion by 2020. Currently, 5G/mm-wave research is very active. However, to effectively study, design, and characterize 5G/mm-wave systems, new state-of-the-art instrumentation is needed, traditionally not present in academic labs. The proposed instrumentation will provide unprecedented measurement and characterization capabilities of 5G/mm-wave antennas and devices. Therefore, it will enable Florida International University (FIU) to: (a) conduct current and future cutting-edge 5G/ mm-wave research projects, (b) develop novel 5G/mm-wave technologies for cellular networks, satellite and airborne communications, as well as brain studies and cancer diagnoses and treatments, (c) offer new opportunities to train post-docs, graduate, undergraduate, and K-12 students to become experts in high frequency radio frequency (RF) technologies, creating much needed national workforce in this area, (d) serve as a state-of-the-art technical hub in South Florida, attracting new statewide, national and international academic and industry collaborators, (e) foster new opportunities for cross-disciplinary and multi-institutional research, and (f) support the growth of a strong and diverse U.S. workforce in RF communication. Therefore, the proposed instrumentation will have significant impact in research, education, and technology development. This acquisition will further advance FIU's educational efforts to broaden participation of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM through curriculum development, REU programs, and outreach efforts. <br/><br/>The proposed instrumentation from Microwave Vision Group (MVG), called -Lab, is highly specialized and incorporates important requirements for compatibility and interoperability, across 18 GHz to 110 GHz. This instrumentation consists of an anechoic chamber equipped with absorbers, precision positioning control system, RF equipment modules (network analyzers, coaxial cables, waveguides, probes, etc.) and data post-processing. Different modules are required for different frequency bands viz. K (18-26 GHz), Ka (26-40 GHz), V (50-75GHz), and W (75-110GHz) bands. Research in the frequency range 18-110 GHz has so far been impeded by the lack of affordable testing equipment with large measurement inaccuracies. This is mostly due to the small footprint of related RF devices. As a result, research activities in related communications, biomedical, and other scientific fields have been so far limited to much lower frequency range. The procurement of such instrumentation will eschew traditional limitations often encountered with high frequency testing and characterization of future mm-wave, terahertz, and IoT components devices and systems. The broadband frequency (18-110GHz) offered by this instrumentation will enable groundbreaking and transformative research in RF communications with multi-Gbps data rates. Such capability will revolutionize a) cellular networks, b) airborne and satellite communication systems, c) vehicle-to-vehicle communications, d) reconfigurable and deployable RF systems, e) wearable and implantable devices, f) brain and cancer studies, g) terahertz and mm-wave cameras, h) terahertz sources and on-chip terahertz antennas, and i) secure communications among others. In summary, research in 5G and mm-wave technologies, which will be enabled by the proposed instrumentation, is expected to have great impact on information technology, telecommunications, diagnosis of diseases and biomonitoring, thereby improving quality of life and health.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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Studying the Retention of Novice Science Teachers by Learning from School District Induction and Mentoring Programs: Montclair State University

Douglas Larkin

[email protected]

Retaining STEM teachers is a challenge across the Nation. This Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program Track 4 project seeks to investigate factors that affect retention of novice science teachers throughout the first five years of their career. The project will pay particular attention to understanding the ways in which school districts design and implement mentoring and induction programs that demonstrate success in retaining teachers. The study will include examination of retention rates of science teachers in high-need schools, science teachers of color, and retention of Noyce Scholarship teacher recipients. In the United States, significant resources are devoted to recruitment and preparation of science teachers, yet the mentoring and induction experiences that may contribute positively to science teacher retention are poorly understood. A better understanding of evidence-based practices for designing mentoring and induction experiences for new science teachers could have clear implications for both policy and practice. This study will use state level data, spanning a ten-year period, from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, to identify school districts with exemplary novice science teacher retention, and then conduct site visits and write case studies that describe the characteristics that contribute to the high retention of science teachers in these districts.<br/><br/>This study has two phases. In the first phase, researchers will examine publicly available staffing data to develop a 5-year retention map for three cohorts of teachers in each state, with additional cohorts tracked over the duration of the study. This staffing data from each state will be used to map the career paths of individual science teachers for a more comprehensive picture of teacher retention, mobility, and attrition. By identifying districts that are highly successful in retaining science teachers, the findings from this analysis will be used to set the stage for the second phase of the research. In the second phase, the researchers aim to closely examine a subset of districts that demonstrate high science teacher retention rates. This analysis focuses on gaining a better understanding of the role of mentoring and induction programs, as well as other factors cited in the literature that may influence teacher retention. This project uses a theoretical framework, based in research literature, that looks at teacher retention in terms school contexts and personal/professional backgrounds. One state study will occur in each of years two through five of the project, beginning with New Jersey in the second project year. A subset of districts that are successful at retaining science teachers of color, science teachers in high-need districts, and Noyce graduates teaching science will be identified for further study. It is estimated that a sample of 15-20 school districts per each of the four states will be identified, with the aim of representing the range of district characteristics, and mentoring and induction programs. From these districts, the research team will select five to six exemplar districts for case studies that will address the best practices, structure and organization, funding, and critical issues in each district related to the mentoring and induction program. Anticipated outcomes of this study include: state-specific reports on the role of mentoring and induction and other retention-related factors for dissemination (through policy briefs, conference presentations, peer-reviewed manuscripts, and a multiple-case study in the form of a book-length manuscript featuring generalizable best practices in mentoring and induction, as well as other factors influencing retention), and the production and dissemination of a shareable database analysis tool for calculating actual retention rates (disaggregated by teaching certification) from existing staffing data sets. The potential contributions of this study include the dissemination of knowledge about how to better support novice science teachers so that they remain in the profession. Further, this study will provide all states with a set of tools by which actual retention rates can be measured.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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Enhancing Educational Virtual Reality with Headset-based Eye Tracking

Sponsor: University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Christoph Borst [email protected] (Principal Investigator)
Arun Kulshreshth (Co-Principal Investigator)
Award Number: 1815976


Virtual reality (VR) can bring lab or field-trip-like experiences to students who are unable to visit physical sites because of location, budget, or schedule. Potential advantages of these experiences over traditional teaching tools include increased student engagement and motivation, more direct viewing of size and spatial relationships of modeled objects, and stronger memories of the content. Emerging consumer VR devices are starting to provide sufficient quality and affordability for home and school use, and this will eventually make educational VR experiences broadly available. Future consumer VR headsets are expected to include increased sensing, such as eye tracking cameras to determine where users are looking and strain gauges to detect facial expressions. The sensor data can be analyzed for insight into users’ attention and emotional affect. The project will investigate how such insight into student attention can be used to improve educational VR through the design of personalized educational environments that respond to individual students’ attention. The project will also develop techniques for using sensor data to give teachers enhanced real-time insight into student activities and behavior patterns to help them provide better teacher-guided VR experiences. This will involve development of new approaches for educational VR technology and experiments that generate fundamental knowledge and guidelines for applying such approaches. In addition to the potential long-term benefit of improving education, the project will provide a number of more immediate, direct educational benefits. The team will incorporate the work into courses and undergraduate research experiences on human-computer interaction and VR, as well as outreach activities and summer programs aimed at high school students across Louisiana.

The team will design and assess methods including the following: 1) educational content that responds to student eye gaze for more responsive and engaging presentation; 2) visual effects or indicators, based on detected eye behaviors, to encourage student attention to particular content in a VR environment; and 3) visualizations of student eye gaze that use both raw and processed gaze data to help teachers understand and guide students. To understand the tradeoffs between approaches and to develop guidelines for wider development and use of these techniques, effects will be studied in terms of behavior, subjective experience, and learning. The most promising methods will be applied to a case study of a networked VR interface that allows teachers to monitor and guide students through an immersive educational VR environment. To do this, the team will build on their existing educational VR framework that has previously been deployed at regional high schools and to thousands of students at outreach events. The project is expected to improve the effectiveness of such VR systems and of teachers’ ability to supervise and assist students. Resulting methods and principles will provide a foundation for headset-based eye tracking in educational VR and in other related applications such as simulation-based training and accessibility.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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