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The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Youth Radio a $1.7 million grant to launch the Youth Radio Innovation Lab, a three-year project that partners underserved young people with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) professionals as makers of socially-relevant apps and multimedia stories that reach mass audiences.
Youth Radio secured funding from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation in 2012 to pilot the Innovation Lab, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has supported Youth Radio’s coverage of digital innovation that fuels learning. Through the NSF grant and ongoing partnership with co-grantee MIT Media Lab’s Center for Mobile Learning, Youth Radio will test and share projects that advance informal STEM learning. A primary goal is the development of a media-rich toolkit that allows professionals and educators to promote STEM learning through app development and media production in their own communities.
“The Innovation Lab builds on Youth Radio’s top-flight journalism and our track-record as one of the first programs in the US to teach teens mobile app development,” says co-Principal Investigator Lissa Soep. “This isn’t about one-time exposure. Through the innovation Lab, young people collaborate over time on iterative projects and in the process transform from consumers to creators of scientific knowledge, from users to producers of new technology.”
Participants will design and create apps that provide insight into youth-identified issues, fostering awareness, communication, and connection. Projects will likely include explorations into environmental science, biology, and neuroscience, with social science featuring prominently as participants collect and analyze data within their communities. The process and results will be shared through Youth Radio’s Science Desk and national network of media outlets, including NPR and National Geographic, to engage users nationwide.
“Mobile computing and digital media have a power that’s changing all of our lives,” said Hal Abelson, Director, MIT Center for Mobile Learning. “Our vision for the Innovation Lab is to put that power into the hands of young people—and all people—to use as a force for creating, learning, and enriching their communities.”