STEMports: Community Workforce Development through Augmented Reality STEM Learning Experiences
Lead PI:
Susannah Gordon-Messer

This Smart and Connected Community (SCC) project will partner with two rural communities to develop STEMports, an innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning game for workforce development. The game's activities will take players on localized Augmented Reality (AR) missions to both engage in STEM learning challenges and discover emerging STEM careers in their community, specifically highlighting innovations in the fields of sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, forest products, and renewable energy. Community Advisory Teams (CATs) and co-design teams, including youth, representatives from the targeted emerging STEM economies, and decision-makers will partner with project staff to co-design STEMports that reflect the interests, cultural contexts, and envisioned STEM industries of the future for each community.

The project will: (a) design and pilot an AR game for community STEM workforce development; (b) develop and adapt a community engagement process that optimizes community networking for co-designing the gaming application and online community; and (c) advance a scalable process for wider applications of STEMports. This project is a collaboration between the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and the Field Day Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to both build and research the co-designing of a SCC based within an AR environment. The project will contribute knowledge to the informal STEM learning, community development, and education technology fields in four major ways:

Deepening the understanding of how innovative technological tools support rural community STEM knowledge building as well as STEM identity and workforce interest.

Identifying design principles for co-designing the STEMports community related to the technological design process.

Developing social network approaches and analytics to better understand the social dimensions and community connections fostered by the STEMport community.

Understanding how participants' online and offline interactions with individuals and experiences builds networks and knowledge within a SCC.

With the scaling of use by an ever-growing community of players, STEMports will provide a new AR-based genre of public participation in STEM and collective decision making. The research findings will add to the emerging literature on community-wide education, innovative education technologies, informal STEM learning (especially place-based learning and STEM ecosystems), and participatory design research.

Project website is:


Susannah Gordon-Messer
Susannah is a STEM Education Specialist with the Maine Math and Science Alliance. Trained as a lab scientist, she transitioned to education when she realized that her true enthusiasm lay in finding ways to teach and excite people about STEM. She is interested in innovative tools and programs that allow participants to engage in authentic experiences and use their creativity as they learn. Prior to MMSA, she worked at the University of Southern Maine as the interim director of the Ci2 Concept Research Lab, a creative projects and innovation space for students, faculty and the community. Before moving to Maine, she was a curriculum and professional development specialist for The Education Arcade at MIT where she worked on The Radix Endeavor, a multiplayer online game tied to math and biology standards. Susannah holds a PhD in Biophysics from Brandeis University and a BS in Biological Engineering from Cornell University.
Performance Period: 10/01/2018 - 12/31/2023
Institution: Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Number: 1831427