Nebraska Students To Investigate Wearable Technology
About 900 fourth- to sixth-graders in Nebraska are going to investigate wearable technology — things like sensor-enabled shirts, Bluetooth-enabled shoes and camera-equipped glasses — to stir their interest in engineering.
A National Science Foundation grant is giving $1 million to an interdisciplinary team from both the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Omaha to develop a curriculum that will help students learn about the science behind the "fashion-forward" technology.
The plan is for the curriculum —spanning both classroom and afterschool activities — to give students access to kits that will have conductive thread, LED lights, sensors and other components used in developing high-tech garments. Students will then work with microcontrollers that include miniscule circuit boards that can be programmed to direct tiny devices attached to them.
The research team said it hopes the activities will help the students learn basic principles of engineering design, including electricity and circuitry that can then be used to create LED-encrusted bracelets and other apparel.
"We're hoping to teach these students to think like engineers and wearable technology is the vehicle that we're using to do it," UN-Lincoln Professor Brad Baker said. "It's hands-on, minds-on, and all of the technology is exposed."
Eventually, the team from the two universities will study whether the curriculum did in fact enhance the students' engineering-related knowledge, skills and attitudes.
"This is an age when students are very impressionable," Baker said. "We think an intervention at this age group could be especially important for keeping them interested."
Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.