Parents Fund supports students working to promote K12 STEM learning

Person posing over sewing machine
UC Davis Chancellor Fellow Class '18, Lee Michael Martin, an Associate professor at the School of Education is the principle Investigator of the BETA Lab. Build, Engineer, Tinker, Adapt (BETA) at UC Davis studies how young people learn and develop through participation in making and the Maker Movement. Photo courtesy of UC Regents.

By Eric Gifford

Associate Professor of Education and a Chancellor’s Fellow Lee Martin researches how we can get young people to be resourceful thinkers, especially using math and science. That goes for the K-12 students he studies –– and the UC Davis students he teaches and involves in his research.

Martin ignites creativity by encouraging young people to design and build projects of their choosing. He and his students drive a well-stocked van called the Beta Lab to schools and community centers. There young people combine crafts like woodworking or sewing, with high-tech tools such as electronics or 3D printing.

“If we can understand when and how these kinds of ‘maker experiences’ are valuable, we can change schooling to be more effective and humane for all students, especially for those who typically are not served well by STEM education,” said Martin.

Observing how young people address challenges in their projects –– how they’ll get over, under or around a specific problem –– is especially valuable for educators, Martin noted. The Beta Lab gives college students a chance to work with children beyond the classroom, who are engaged in learning on a self-designed project they are highly motivated to complete.

Such work is made possible in part through Martin’s 2018 Chancellor’s Fellowship, thanks to donors to the UC Davis Parents Fund. The Fellowship provides impressive early-career faculty like Martin with a $25,000 award to use in in their teaching work with students or to further their research.

For more information on how gifts to the UC Davis Parents Fund make a difference on campus, visit our parents fund website here.

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