1 University of Tartu (ESTONIA)
2 University College Leuven-Limburg (BELGIUM)
3 University of Antwerp (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 1457-1465
ISBN: 978-84-608-2657-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 8th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2015
Location: Seville, Spain
Studies have shown that many students are not interested in studying STEM related disciplines and that the number of university students choosing to major in STEM areas has decreased. Why is this so? One reason may be that these subjects are often taught too theoretically, without connection to everyday life contexts. The result is that many students find STEM subjects irrelevant or boring, and are not motivated to continue studying STEM subjects. However, research has shown that inquiry-based science education is an effective teaching pedagogy to engage students in STEM learning. In this study we present and analyze the results of the Quantum Spin-Off project as it was implemented in Estonian schools. The project aimed to engage secondary school teachers and students with authentic inquiry activities related to nanotechnology.

The objective of the Quantum Spin-Off project was to connect teachers and students with university researchers and/or experts at companies working in the field of nanotechnology. Students who participated in the project were divided into 7 groups. Each group had to learn about general quantum physics and nanotechnology principles, read a research article about a specialized nanotechnology topic, and visit a nanotechnology laboratory. School teachers helped guide these learning processes. Combining these learning experiences together, the student groups participated in a contest in which they had to produce a project which consisted of a concept or product and a business model which applied their concept or product in practice. Both the concept or product and business model were judged by a 5 person jury (1 teacher, 1 student, 1 industry representative, 1 education researcher, and 1 nanotechnologist) who graded all 7 group projects based on a common rubric.

Feedback about the project was collected from teachers and students and analyzed using qualitative content analysis. The results were coded into explicit categories. The results indicate that both teachers and students considered participation in the Quantum Spin-Off project to be valuable. Practical work and the opportunity to design a nanotechnology-based product or develop a technological concept helped bring students closer to the field of nanotechnology, and showed them that this is an area which has practical relevance in high-tech industry as well as in everyday life.
High technology, secondary students projects, Quantum Spin-off.