The ScienceMakers: African Americans and Scientific Innovation is a three-year project designed to increase awareness of the contributions of African American scientists, raise awareness of STEM careers, and increase understanding of STEM concepts through the creation of education, media, and career resources. The project team is supplemented with an extensive advisory board of STEM education, museum, and community professionals, as well as representatives from partnering science centers. Project partners include the St. Louis Science Center, Liberty Science Center, New York Hall of Science, Pacific Science Center, Franklin Institute, COSI Columbus, Lawrence Hall of Science, SciWorks, Detroit Science Center, and MOSI Chicago. Additional collaborators include middle and high schools with high minority populations.

Project deliverables include a fully accessible multi-media archive of video oral histories of 180 African American scientists and web resources and contests utilizing Web 2.0 and 3.0 applications such as social networking tools that foster engagement and build community around the ScienceMakers. Public programs for youth and adults at science museums, after-school programs, and community organizations highlight African American contributors, and encourage interest in science and science careers and the ScienceMakers DVD Toolkit expand the reach of this innovative project. Intended impacts for youth and adults consist of increased awareness of STEM concepts and career options, exposure to African American scientists, awareness of the contributions of minority scientists, and 21st century skills. Intended impacts on professional audiences include increased awareness and understanding of STEM careers and workforce diversity, 21st century skills, and STEM career options.

The project evaluation, conducted by Knight-Williams Research Communications, utilizes a mixed-methods approach. The evaluation assesses the impact of the oral history archive, public programs, and other deliverables on public and professional audiences' knowledge, interest, and awareness of the contributions of African American scientists, STEM concepts, and STEM careers. The evaluation also includes an ethnography which examines factors that contribute to success in STEM careers by African-American scientists.

The ScienceMakers significantly expands the world's largest searchable oral history archive and may have an enduring impact on research and practice in the field of informal science education. The project has the potential to enrich programs and exhibits, while raising awareness of the contributions of African-American scientists among informal science education professionals and the general public.

Project Report

On August 6, 2009, The HistoryMakers was awarded a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation in order to create a one of kind video oral history archive to expose the public including youth, adults, and STEM professionals to a broader range of the nation’s leading African American scientists. The purpose of the initiative was to engage minority youth in STEM through the first-person life stories of African American scientists. The project successfully gave new role models to students and led to increased awareness of STEM careers and concepts. Also, subject to the provisions of NSF 08-547 – Informal Science Education, grant proposal number DRL-0917612 entitled "ScienceMakers: African Americans and Scientific Innovation" was to provide the following seven deliverables: A ScienceMakers Advisory Board composed of STEM experts, scientists, educators, new technology specialists and representatives from 10 major science centers; The largest and only fully accessible multi-media archive of video oral histories of 180 African American scientists; Web resources and contests utilizing Web 2.0 and 3.0 applications provide easy access to the interactive ScienceMakers archive -- social networking tools foster engagement and build community around ScienceMakers; the online video oral history contest encourages entrants to creatively portray their ‘future self’ as a ScienceMaker; Public programs for youth and adults at 10 science museums highlighting these African American contributors, encouraging interest in science and science careers, and inspire adults and youth alike; On-going programs using ScienceMakers at science centers, after-school programs and community organizations; ScienceMakers Toolkit Vols. 1, 2, and 3 distributed to science centers, educators, after-school programs and community organizations; Programmatic evaluations conducted by Knight-Williams Research and Goodman Research Group assessing the effectiveness of the ScienceMakers public programs, video oral history interviews, DVD and toolkits, interactive website, digital archive and the dissemination and outreach efforts. The scientists interviewed represent a wide variety of professions: Aeronautics & Astronautics (5), Physics (45), Chemistry (33), Engineering (28), Mathematics (20), Astronomy (2), Biology (23), Computer Science (20), and Earth Science (9). They also represent diverse geographic areas with the highest density residing in twelve areas including Los Angeles, California (12), San Francisco, California (14), Atlanta, Georgia (19), Norfolk, Virginia (6), New Jersey/New York City (14), Boston/Providence/Hanover (22), Washington, D.C. (34), Baltimore/Philadelphia/Delaware (23), Michigan (12), Southeast Texas (11), Durham, North Carolina (6) and Chicago, Illinois (8). From 2009 to 2012, ScienceMakers’ public programs reached over 5,000 attendees and eatured scientists like NASA’s Woodrow Whitlow, Jr., physicist Dr. Jim Gates and Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson in front of audiences of all ages. Partners included the St. Louis Science Center; the Museum of Science & Industry; the University of Illinois; COSI Columbus; Franklin Institute; Detroit Science Center; Allen Temple Baptist Church; University of California, Berkeley; Science Museum of Minnesota; Fernbank Science Center; SciWorks; and the National Academy of Sciences. As reported by Goodman Research Group (2012), the ScienceMakers public programs resulted in participants becoming more aware of the achievements made by African American scientists and learning about their work and contributions in a variety of STEM fields. Attendees felt they learned more about the range of STEM careers and expressed interest in learning more about them. Adult attendees of the evening programs felt more comfortable and equipped to encourage youth to explore and pursue STEM related work. In many ways, The HistoryMakers and its partners exceeded what was originally promised under the grant. With COSI Columbus, they worked with us closely to create a sustainability model for ongoing ScienceMakers programming beyond the grant term. This resulted in their hosting ScienceMakers programming over a three-year period integrating it into its 2010, 2011, and 2012 activities with support from The HistoryMakers, the Superintendent of Schools Gene Harris, the Ohio State University and the local Honda Science Clubs. It is their plan to continue offering this programming annually. They can also serve as model for other science centers and after school programs. Also, as part of the ScienceMakers grant, Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center created unique digital archive for easy searching of the ScienceMakers corpus of interviews. This digital archive ( is offered free of charge, requiring only a one-time registration through The HistoryMakers website. The technology used was conceived and built with support from NSF grant IIS-0705491. With over 2,000 stories from noted STEM professionals, this online repository has become the expert source on 20th/21st century African American leaders in STEM. An important primary source, the ScienceMakers digital archive tools include automatic alignment of transcripts to video, named entity detection, geocoding to support map search, and other multimedia indexing and interface technologies. The stories can be searched to identify relevant passages, themes and ideas simply by typing in a keyword.

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