2012 Space Grant Fellowship Awards

Melissa Buckingham

Melissa Buckingham

Argumentation: Comparing Students Learning when Arguing with Their Own Opinions Versus Role-Playing Someone Else’s Opinion

Argumentation in the classroom is being advocated as the way to teach science because it is more like what scientists do in the field and prepares students to make real-world decisions in the future. The newly published Framework for k-12 Science Education emphasizes the need to engage students in scientific argumentation to develop an understanding of concepts, to develop behaviors in scientific practices, and to develop an understanding for the nature of science. This research project investigates and compares the effectiveness of two approaches to engaging students in scientific argumentation: role-playing and round-robin discussion communities. Middle grade students will engage in astronomy topics that involve multiple interpretations and theories. I expect the discussion in which the student’s role play will have higher quality and quantity of reasoning than the round-robin discussion communities. This project will lead to development of an effective unit for addressing argumentation in an astronomy course for middle grades.  

Tim Messer

Creativity in Colorization of Astronomical Images

There are many studies that indicate that by the middle grades, many students have already decided that they are not interested in science. They hold a naïve understanding for the nature of science which may influence their interests in pursuing science careers. Creativity is a tenant of the nature of science that is often left out in the perceptions of doing science. This study examines how creativity, explicitly embedded in an astronomy unit, impacts the decisions of middle grade students to pursue science careers. In addition, the study will examine the ability of colorization of astronomical images to improve the middle grade student’s creativity, and the relationship between understandings for the nature of science when creativity is explicitly embedded in science instruction. The results of the study will lead to the development of a unit for a middle grades science classroom focusing on the topics related to light, color and the use of remote telescopes for data collection.


Jennifer Stalls

Jennifer Stalls

The Relationship Between Science and Language: An Examination of the Explanations of Science Concepts

The topic of my research is the relationship between language and science explanation. Often students come into the classroom with misconceptions, or they formulate misconceptions throughout the school year. This can lead to further misunderstandings, frustrations, and dubious foundations from which to build other science concepts. By studying how students explain science concepts, specifically, the structures of their explanations, researchers may be able to not only identify the structures of ideas that students use to support their misconceptions, but also the possible relationship between the structure of an argument and the naïve ideas that students hold. It is anticipated that this study will provide specific information that classroom teachers can use to support science argumentation in the classroom. It is also anticipated that classroom teachers will be able to use the results of this study to help in the evaluation of conceptual understanding.  Sixty middle grade students will be interviewed on the topics of gravity and moon phases (both commonly identified topics of misconceptions).  The structures of their explanations will be examined and their conceptual understandings coded.


Sarah Guffey

Sarah Guffey

Informal vs Formal Teaching Tools: Identifying the Effectiveness of Technology Teaching Tools to Improve Student Learning

The calls for the use of technology in a science classroom suggest that technology will serve as an effective tool to support student learning. There has also been an abundance of research indicating that the traditional approach of teacher-centered, directly didactic teaching is not effective. This study examines teachers’ perceptions of the use of technology in moving from the teacher-centered to the student-centered approach to science instruction. Many science classrooms can be found implementing technology, such as PowerPoint presentations, with the interest in having more impact on student learning than a purely lecture based approach. Teachers in these classrooms are likely to believe that the PowerPoint presentations will promote the necessary mindfulness (Langer, 1989; 1997) for effective learning. This study will examine the teachers’ use and perception of technology in the classroom. It will also examine and compare student learning in an environment where mindfulness is addressed through formal technology tools (such as PowerPoints) and informal technology tools (such as a planetarium).


Jonathan D. Lewis

Jonathan D. Lewis

Effects of Attitude on Spatial Reasoning within a School of Thought

Reasoning in science is often accredited to the unique process of spatial reasoning (Stieff, 2007). Due to this, it has been over-generalized that if a person is good in spatial reasoning, then that person may also be good in science. Just as science knowledge cannot be lumped into one understanding, so too must the development of spatial reasoning be segregated.  For this reason, spatial reasoning tests are being designed for discipline specificity. Some research has suggested that there is a relationship between the self-efficacy of science learning and the interests and attitudes about science. In other words, a student that perceives herself as being good in biology is more likely to pursue a career in biology than one that perceives biology as difficult. There is no research that examines the relationship between spatial reasoning, self-efficacy, and attitudes in science. This study will examine the relationship between a person’s attitude and self-efficacy about astronomy, and a person’s level of skill in spatial reasoning related to astronomy concepts.  The study will include approximately 50 undergraduate students in science courses, including an astronomy course. Identifying a person’s proclivity to a particular discipline would be helpful early in their learning to help guide them toward a career in science. This would also help to address strategies that might be implemented to develop positive attitudes about science and an interest in pursuing science careers.


Christopher Clark

A Lesson in Metallurgy: Learning Science through Art

By the time most students are in middle school many of them know about phase changes in matter, but what about the changes that occur to matter when different stresses are placed upon them? In my project, students will learn about metallurgy through the processes of annealing and work hardening by learning about the crystalline lattice structure within copper. Learners will gain a better understanding of this through psychomotor development, in which they actively do processes to the metal to change its crystalline composition while making a piece of art.

Meredith Preddy

Meredith Preddy

Do Science-Driven Applications Actually Have an Impact on Education?

This project is meant to test scientific based apps found on IPads/Laptops in the world of Education. Applications are a new resource for teachers and students alike to use in the field. With being a new resource not enough research has been done of the effectiveness or knowledge of this new technology in the classroom. The App world based through ITunes offers hundreds of Scientific and Educational based apps to be used in an educational setting. This project is to interview teachers and students on their thoughts and feelings towards educational applications. The project will be performed in the field by interviewing and analyzing results of middle grades teachers and students. The research will then access the knowledge of educational apps in order to analyze the depth of effectiveness this new technology has in the classroom.


Seema Patel

Seema Patel

Using Brightly-Colored Bacteria and High Resolution Digital Photography to Communicate the Concept of Microbial Biodiversity to Elementary School Students

Most people perceive microorganisms as the cause of disease without realizing the breadth of their occurrence and their tremendous diversity in the world around them. In part this is due to their small cell size, and to the rather abstract procedures that are used to classify and characterize them in comparison to macro-organisms like frogs and birds. We propose to use the striking phenotype of brightly colored extremophilic bacteria to communicate the concept of microbial biodiversity to elementary school students (1st through 3rd grades) at Greenville Montessori School, and to control and test subjects amongst elementary education students at East Carolina University. Students will compare photographs of microbial cultures obtained from deep subsurface rocks to a photographic database of known standards to allow students to identify and quantify microorganisms based upon colony shape and color. We will set up a comparative demonstration of bacteria found in common garden soil, such as that found outside of their classroom, in order to communicate the concept of environmental influences upon microbial diversity. We will measure the success of the lesson by conducting simple surveys before and after the demonstration. We will test whether the occurrence of brightly pigmented colonies with interesting morphologies influence student's perceptions of microbial biodiversity and their roles in the natural world while reinforcing concepts in quantitative analysis.


Jennifer Nester

Jennifer Nester

How do misconceptions influence students’ attitudes about their career choices in science?

There has been an interest in science education research to examine cognitive change with a focus on misconceptions; including those commonly found in astronomy. The emphasis on misconceptions is usually related to research topics that address best practices of teaching and learning. There is no reference in the literature about the relationship between misconceptions and interests in pursuing science careers. Many misconceptions are developed in the middle and high school grade classrooms; the point in education when students start considering their interests in pursuing science careers and their attitudes about science change from positive to negative (TIMSS).This research focuses on the possible influence of misconceptions on students’ attitudes and interests about their career choices in science. The study involves the use of a planetarium to address common astronomy misconceptions. Two middle schools will participate in this study, using the planetarium to teach the concepts around the causes of seasons. The project includes the development of a lesson that involves effective teaching strategies with a portable planetarium.   


Katherine White

NASA Helps Enhance Education

I plan on researching the free resources that are available for educators on NASA’s website. I will then determine if they teach to all of the learning styles that elementary children possess. The learning styles include: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and naturalist. Children learn best in a variety of different ways so teachers should utilize multiple resources that address each style. I would also like to find out what kinds of schools use these resources and how many schools use them. An example of a type of demographic I would research would be whether urban or rural schools use them. I plan on presenting a teacher workshop that demonstrates all of the ways to use these resources in the classroom. I will show teachers which resources are best for each learning style.


Christina Burchette

Teacher’s Response to Student’s Misconceptions

There have been many studies showing the commonality and the depth of the misconceptions in astronomy. These misconceptions come from a variety of influences such as a student's own experiences, misleading images in a textbook and teachers' confusing descriptions. Misconceptions are harder to correct as children get older. It is therefore important to actively identify the misconceptions and to challenge them as soon as they are identified. The purpose of this research project is two-fold. First, I will look at the misconceptions of students in 3 high school grades science classrooms before and after instruction to examine conceptual change and to identify misconceptions. Secondly, I will examine teachers' responses when students' misconceptions are revealed. The focus of this project is to analyze the teachers' decisions about instructional practices based on their knowledge of students' misconceptions; and the methods by which the teachers believe the misconceptions will be best corrected. The project will include 5 teacher case studies, each with a different level of student learning (honors, standard, high risk/underrepresented), covering the same topic in astronomy. There is an estimate of 140 students included in this study.



Kerri Andrews

Perceptions, Motivation, & Interests in Math & Science: Is there a Crossover for Subjects in a Middle Grades Classroom?

There have been many studies suggesting that the interests, motivations, and self-efficacy change for students in math and science courses. These studies suggest the decline in these areas is dramatic in the middle grades, continues through the high school grades, and that it is difficult to make a positive change in students’ ideas about math and science. This leads to fewer students pursuing math and science careers. This study will examine the similarities in math and science in terms of students’ perceptions and instructional approaches; and the study will compare characteristics that positively influence students’ interests and perceptions in math and science. 


2012 Region 1 Science Fair Space Grant Awards

Student Awards

Student Name(s)

Samantha Kros
Brooke Keefe
Delaney O'Connor

Mrs. Becker
Level: Elementary
Texting-A Distraction Attraction  $100.00
Elijah Shuford
Mrs. Lopez
Mrs. Southern 


Water Contamination Across the US and Canada  $100.00
Parker Betts
Candace Duty Elizabeth City
Level: Middle
Structural Engineering and Carnival Games   $100.00

Easton Dally
Ryan Mehta

Gary Lindsay Elmhurst School
Level: Elementary 
The Golden Angle  $50.00

Zach Mehta
Garrett Fagundus

Jamie Stanfield C.M. Eppes
Level: Middle
The Golden Arch  $100.00
Chaz McDaniel
Mrs. Noblitt Elizabeth City
Level: Middle
Brain Power!!! Do Cockroaches and Phorid Flies have Antimicrobial Properties in their Brains  $100.00

Diamond Ashe

Mr. Paramore Chicod 
Level: Elementary 
Presenting the Mind of Balloons  $50.00

Thomas Grubb

Meredith Mayes Christian Covenant 
Level: Elementary 
Glider Design and Flight Distance   $50.00

Teacher Awards

Teacher Name School Award
Mrs. Becker Winterville
Level: Elementary
Mr. Paramore
Level: Elementary 


2011 Space Grant Fellowship Award

Matt Brown

Matt Brown, Master's student in the Department of Geological Sciences, received 2011 NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellowship.

His research will focus on the mobilization and transport of dissolved and particulate material from the land to coastal waters following major flood events. This research will integrate field measurements, remotely sensed images, and numerical model results. The study site will include the Tar-Pamlico River or Neuse River, a portion of Pamlico Sound, and adjacent continental shelf of North Carolina.

Jacob Dupree, Camden Middle School, was the junior (grades 6-8) winner of the ECU Space Grant Scholarship Award. He won a $250 ECU scholarship. His engineering project was Roll with It.

Jacob is pictured with Jenna Dionisio, the ECU Space Grant keynote speaker for the Science Fair.

Sam Christensen, Stone Circle Academy, was the senior (grades 9-12) winner of the ECU Space Grant Scholarship. He won a $500 ECU scholarship. His environmental science project was " How does impervious surface runoff affect stream chemistry and microbiological load?"

Sam is pictured with Jenna Dionisio, the ECU Space Grant keynote speaker for the Science Fair.

Mr. Coleman Bailey, D. H. Conley High School, was the senior teacher winner of the ECU Space Grant Award. He won a $200 award.

Mr. Bailey is pictured with Jenna Dionisio.


Ms. Candace Duty, River Road Middle School,Elizabeth City, NC was the middle school teacher winner of the ECU Space Grant Award. She won a $200 award.