This project is funded from the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites program in the SBE Directorate. As such, it has both scientific and societal benefits, and it integrates research and education. This cutting-edge ten-week interdisciplinary REU Site hosted at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) will be the first to focus on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for disaster resilience spatial thinking. Project objectives are to (1) enable students to research, create, and evaluate serious GIS games for disaster resilience spatial thinking, and (2) create and evaluate an interdisciplinary STEM research environment at the intersections of Geographic Information Science, disaster management, Information Technology (IT), social science and game development. The Site will recruit Geography, social science and IT students. Intended impacts are to create intellectual, methodological and communication foundations for future scientists to conduct interdisciplinary research at the intersections of GIScience, disaster management, IT, and game development. The RIT REU Site will advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning by addressing pressing national education and training needs for next-generation scientists capable of conducting interdisciplinary, spatially-oriented STEM research focused on GIS and societal disaster resilience. The Site also has several societal benefits such as (1) addressing pressing national geospatial software development workforce needs identified in the Geospatial Technology Competency Model through REU Site efforts focused on spatial computing skill development, (2) disseminating REU student disaster resilience scenarios, datasets and serious game intellectual products for disaster resilience education, training and capacity building, and (3) demonstrating the importance of GIS, spatial thinking, serious games, and disaster resilience to early career scientists to potentially save lives when disasters occur. The REU Site is particularly strong with broadening the participation of underrepresented groups through integration with RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf that will recruit and engage Deaf and Hard of Hearing students and faculty in the research. All students will be encouraged to explore disaster resilience issues surrounding special needs people. The Site will enhance infrastructure for research and education - the Site is envisioned as a start to a 10-year international program on GIS, spatial thinking and disaster management that will leverage the PI's existing international NSF research funding and networks.
The fundamental spatial nature of disasters necessitates deeper scientific understanding of how GIS can advance disaster resilience spatial thinking. Serious games are well known for disaster management training and simulation but underused for spatial thinking research. The proposed REU Site will be the first research environment to explore the novel linkage between disaster resilience, spatial thinking, GIS, and serious games via three unanswered scientific research questions: (1) Which spatial thinking components are relevant to disaster resilience, (2) Which GIS tools and visual representations best connect disaster resilience with spatial thinking, and (3) What are the best serious game design practices that incorporate spatial thinking GIS tools and visual representations for disaster resilience to achieve learning outcomes. Mentored student activities involve central hypothesis testing by identifying, designing and creating disaster resilience spatial thinking serious GIS games. The proposed REU Site will provide undergraduate students numerous opportunities to advance this research agenda while themselves benefiting from the research experience.