An Assessment of Undergraduate Student Perspectives on Space Weather

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 11:00 AM
227A-C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Joseph B.H. Baker, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA; and K. D. McConnell and D. G. Sweeney

Over the past few years, space science research at Virginia Tech has experienced rapid growth since the initiation of the Center for Space Science and Engineering Research (Space@VT) during the summer of 2007. This same period has seen several new courses added to the curriculum, one being ECE-2164 “Exploration of the Space Environment”. This course is open to undergraduate students in all majors (with no prerequisites) and covers a broad range of scientific, engineering, and societal aspects associated with the exploration and technological exploitation of space. Topics covered include: science of the space environment and space weather; spacecraft engineering subsystems; and applications of space-based technologies. An important requirement is a semester project report, for which each student gets to research a topic of their own choosing, and several have elected to do “hands-on” group work, such as model rocket launches, high-altitude weather balloon flights, and using VLF receiver equipment to search for solar flare signatures. Using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, an assessment team is probing the students' perspectives of space science, as well as the pedagogical approaches of the course itself. Student motivation, engaged learning, and their sense of space science and its importance to an educated citizenry, are being addressed. Specific assessment measures include: (1) a survey administered twice per semester in pre- and post-test format; (2) open-ended reflection opportunities; and, (3) administration of the MUSIC Model of Motivation Survey (eMpowerment, Usefulness, Success, Interest, and Caring). We present results of these various assessment activities acquired during (and after) the spring 2014 course offering.