This CRPA award will address the science behind solar energy, its capture, measurements, and uses. It is a collaborative effort between scientists at Portland State University (PSU) and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). Materials for the OMSI staff will be prepared by the scientists and the OMSI staff will work with the scientists on making presentations to the public. OMSI will translate information from the exhibits, displays, and presentations into Spanish to engage the Hispanic population. Scientific café?s will be part of this engagement.

The PI and OMSI museum have had a working relationship for some time adding to the potential success of the project. The PI and his colleagues at PSU have a major effort going in research on photonic science suggesting that this engagement can continue to be updated as the time goes on.

The project will be evaluated by the well established evaluation group at OMSI. Further, Spanish speaking public will be embraced with this material as will rural residents from traveling exhibits and displays.

Project Report

Portland State University (PSU) in collaboration with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) received funding from the National Science Foundation to support a "Connecting Researchers and Public Audiences" (CRPA) project titled ResearchLink: Spotlight on Solar Technologies. The goal of this project was to engage public audiences and increase their awareness of local cutting-edge research related to solar energy, green roofs, and green buildings. Specifically, the project promoted public awareness of two NSF-funded research projects led by PI Dr. Carl Wamser, Integrating Green Roofs and Photovoltaic Arrays for Energy Management and Optimization of Multiple Functionalities (CBET-0853933) and Nanofibrous Conductive Polymers from Aminophenylporphyrins: Mechanisms for Conductivity and Applications in Solar Cells (CHE-0911186). ResearchLink developed a series of mechanisms by which PSU scientists worked collaboratively with OMSI staff to bring their research to the public through facilitated activities at the museum, outreach programs in rural communities, online experiences, and Science Café events. Intellectual Merit The most significant ReseachLink project deliverable was the design and fabrication of two hands-on tabletop exhibits, designed to support facilitated and stand-alone experiences at OMSI and throughout our region, with text in both Spanish and English: The Engineering Dyes into Solar Cells exhibit allows visitors to test the absorption ability of organic compounds (dyes) by shining lasers through the dyes; visitors learn about organic materials being studied as a potential replacement for silicon in solar cells. The Solar Panels on Green Roofs exhibit displays the output of solar cells while visitors test conditions that may increase or decrease solar output; this exhibit helps to show some important variables to consider when integrating photovoltaics and green roofs. Broader Impacts The intention of the ResearchLink project was to strengthen public audiences’ engagement, interest, awareness, and knowledge related to two NSF-funded research projects at PSU through dialogue-focused face-to-face interactions between scientists, OMSI educators, and the public. Given the findings from the summative evaluation, we are confident that the PSU-OMSI collaboration was highly effective in achieving this aim. Overall, public participants expressed having a positive experience with ResearchLink programs and activities. Not only were visitor experiences successfully engaging and interesting, they were effectively instructive as well. In addition, nearly every aspect of the ResearchLink project deliverables—from onsite activities to offsite demonstrations—drew more public participants than originally anticipated. For example: ResearchLink reached approximately 8,750 visitors through facilitated activities onsite at OMSI, exceeding the goal of 5,000 visitors ResearchLink drew 498 attendees to offsite demonstrations at Science Café events, exceeding the goal of 300 visitors ResearchLink engaged 333 visitors at offsite community events, exceeding the goal of 300 visitors This level of public engagement multiplied the impact of ResearchLink, introducing more people in more places to current local research in solar energy and green roofs and buildings. Overall, the ResearchLink activities were effective both in relaying information about key scientific concepts as well as in situating these concepts in a relevant and complex context that was accessible and pertinent to public participants’ lives.

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Portland State University
United States
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