Hands-on Activity: Communicating Your Results

Contributed by: AirWaterGas SNR Project Education and Outreach, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Screenshots show three student research posters.
Example scientific research posters.
copyright
Copyright © 2015 Hannigan Lab, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Summary

Students groups create scientific research posters to professionally present the results of their AQ-IQ research projects, which serves as a conclusion to the unit. (This activity is also suitable to be conducted independently from its unit—for students to make posters for any type of project they have completed.) First, students critically examine example posters to gain an understanding of what they contain and how they can be made most effective for viewers. Then they are prompted to analyze and interpret their data, including what statistics and plots to use in their posters. Finally, groups are given a guide that aids them in making their posters by suggesting all the key components one would find in any research paper or presentation. This activity is suitable for presenting final project posters to classmates or to a wider audience in a symposium or expo environment. In addition to the poster-making guide, three worksheets, six example posters, a rubric and a post-unit survey are provided.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Whether presenting results at scientific research or engineering conferences or presenting prototypes or final designs to potential clients, engineers must learn how to present to audiences. One presentation mode is posters, which are an engaging, tangible way to walk others through your work using a combination of text, photos, diagrams and graphs, along with your accompanying verbal presentation. In this activity, students are challenged to figure out how to communicate their work to an audience that includes individuals not on their teams and also not in their class—much in the way engineers often are challenged to communicate their work to non-experts and/or the public. 

Pre-Req Knowledge

Students should have completed data collection for the research study plan they developed as part of the previous associated activity, Study Design for Air Quality Research. This might be data they collected using a low-cost air quality monitor or data that was gathered from existing sources. Either way (or for any other type of projects students have completed), this activity aids students in analyzing, interpreting and communicating their data/results and presenting it in a professional poster format.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Analyze and interpret a set of data they collected.
  • Present data using statistics and plots.
  • Make a scientific research poster communicating data, results and conclusions.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Communicate scientific information (e.g., about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (including orally, graphically, textually, and mathematically). (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Represent data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots). (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • With the aid of technology, various aspects of the environment can be monitored to provide information for decision-making. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • The interaction of Earth's surface with water, air, gravity, and biological activity causes physical and chemical changes (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Develop, communicate, and justify an evidence-based scientific explanation addressing questions regarding the interaction of Earth's surface with water, air, gravity, and biological activity (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each group needs:

Introduction/Motivation

Today, we will begin the last phase of your projects—putting it all together and presenting your results. To wrap up the project, you will make a poster that includes background information, your materials and methods, your results and a discussion. How you design the poster is up to your team. Many poster templates are available online. Your group will choose one and then create an engaging poster. Try to incorporate as many visuals as you can, including pictures, diagrams and graphs.

To begin, choose one of these example posters and evaluate it using the worksheet. Work in your project group for this activity. As you go through the worksheet, think about what you like and what you don’t —which will help you prepare to make your own posters.

(Hand out the Example Poster Worksheet and make available the copies of the six example posters from which each group chooses one to examine closely.)

Procedure

Scientific research posters are a simple, accessible way to present data, and they can be engaging for non-technical audiences. Making effective posters is also a useful skill for science fairs, design expos and college studies and research. For everyone, making posters is good practice to cultivate communication skills. Require students to incorporate into their posters the following components:

  • Project Title: Create a descriptive and engaging title.
  • Authors and Institution: List the names of all group members and their school or class affiliations.
  • Overview/Summary: In a brief amount of text, give viewers quick insight—at a glance—into what students did and why.
  • Introduction/Background Information: Provide information to help non-experts understand the rest of the project, for example, if the project involves measuring ozone levels, provide a brief description of how ozone forms and why ozone matters (such as being a health hazard).
  • Methods and Materials: In this section, describe what students did and how they did it, with enough detail that it could be replicated.
  • Results: Present the data in the form of descriptions, statistics and plots (what did you find?). Remind students that this is not the place to interpret or explain the data.
  • Discussion and Conclusion: This is the place to answer the question: what does this mean? Make sure to include an interpretation of the results, sources of error or other explanations, and what they would do next if the work was continued.
  • References: Cite all source material, both hardcopy and Internet.
  • Acknowledgements: Thank anyone who provided assistance or support, such as teachers, mentors, local businesses, experts, specialists.
  • Disclaimer: You may want students to add a disclaimer, such as: “This data was generated as part of a research learning experience and is intended only for that purpose.”

Refer to the Guide to Making Scientific Research Posters for additional advice and tips regarding layout, aesthetics (font size, colors) and the storytelling approach. Once students have completed their posters, have them save them in PDF format so as to preserve the formatting. Then the posters can be printed on large-format printers or projected and presented.

Before the Activity

  • Make copies of the Example Poster Worksheet and the Guide to Making Scientific Research Posters, one each per student.
  • Print 2-4 copies of each example poster; put them in a pile and let groups each choose one to review.
  • Choose whether you want students to complete the Data Interpretation Worksheet or the Data Interpretation Discussion, which are two approaches to guide data analysis. Both result in students having enough of an understanding of their own data in order to communicate their results via a poster or presentation; the Discussion prompts students to reflect on their data verbally to a group of their peers, while the Worksheet guides them through data analysis and interpretation within their own groups. Choose the model that best fits your available time and student learning preferences.
  • Make copies of either the Data Interpretation Worksheet or the Data Interpretation Discussion, and the Poster Presentation Project Evaluation Rubric, one each per team.
  • Have students review what they learned from the previous activity, in other words, have them review their research plans prior to analyzing their data.
  • Plan an opportunity for students to present their posters. This could be either a day or two in class during which each group gives a five-minute presentation on its project that is graded by their peers using the Poster Presentation Project Evaluation Rubric or organize an afterschool science and engineering symposium, which is especially effective when multiple classes who have participated in the AQ-IQ Program can all participate. Generally, at the symposium, students stand by their posters and present to attendees, which might include other students, teachers, parents and the community. If you wish, arrange for judges to grade the posters using the rubric and award prizes to the highest scoring projects.

With the Students

  1. Present to the class the Introduction/Motivation content.
  2. Have students organize themselves into their research project groups.
  3. Hand out the Example Poster Worksheet.
  4. Begin by having students take a critical look at the example posters, completing the Example Poster Worksheet, either individually or in groups, by examining one example poster of their choice.
  5. Once students have finished examining the example posters, have them return to their own projects/data. Direct them to complete the interpretation worksheet or discussion (whichever you have chosen). Have groups turn in their worksheets or their discussion notes.
  6. (optional) The Poster Presentation Project Evaluation Rubric was designed to evaluate students’ final products—their posters. If you want to use this for grading the poster presentations, hand it out to students so final project expectations are clear.
  7. Next, groups work at computers to create their posters. Hand out the Guide to Making Scientific Research Posters. Direct them to begin their posters in class and complete them as homework. Assign a due date.
  8. Once posters are printed, have groups present their posters in class or at an afterschool symposium to a wider audience.

Attachments

Assessment

Pre-Activity Assessment

Example Poster Examination: Working in their project groups, have students work through the Example Poster Worksheet as an introduction to preparing and presenting research. Doing this leads them to think critically about the elements an example poster from a past year of the project included or may be missing and how the poster may be improved.

Activity Embedded Assessment

Data Interpretation: The Data Interpretation Worksheet and Data Interpretation Discussion are two approaches to guide critical data analysis and help students think through and process their data before they begin to make posters and/or presentations. For the worksheet approach, they work exclusively with their own groups. For the discussion approach, they discuss their data/ideas with another group that is unfamiliar with their project. Have groups turn in their worksheets or the notes from their discussions for teacher review and evaluation.

Post-Activity Assessment

Poster Presentations: Have groups present their posters to the rest of the class or at an afterschool science and engineering symposium to a wider audience. The Poster Presentation Project Evaluation Rubric is suitable for use by either students for peer-evaluation or by teachers for assessment of team posters and presentations.

Post-Unit STEM Survey: Administer the eight-question STEM Survey 2 to evaluate the broader impact of the unit on students. Most of the questions are the same as the associated lesson’s STEM Survey 1, enabling you to make a pre/post comparison of students’ attitudes and knowledge of STEM and engineering.

Additional Multimedia Support

Software to aid in plotting and examining air quality monitor data is explained in the Pod user manual. All downloads and additional assistance/information are available at http://cuboulderaqiq.wix.com/education. Alternatively, use Microsoft® Excel® to plot and visualize the data.

Websites with free scientific research PowerPoint® poster templates:

  • http://www.posterpresentations.com/html/free_poster_templates.html
  • http://www.makesigns.com/SciPosters_Templates.aspx
  • http://www.postersession.com/poster-templates.php
  • http://www.researchposters.com/templates

See more poster tips in Chapter 13 of the Introductory Engineering Design: A Projects-Based Approach textbook at https://itll.colorado.edu/images/uploads/courses_workshops/geen1400/textbook/ch13posters.pdf

Contributors

Ashley Collier; Katya Hafich; Daniel Knight; Michael Hannigan; Joanna Gordon; Ben Graves; Eric Ambos; Olivia Cecil; Victoria Danner; Erik Hotaling; Eric Lee; Drew Meyers; Hanadi Adel Salamah; Nicholas VanderKolk

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado

Supporting Program

AirWaterGas SNR Project Education and Outreach, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Acknowledgements

This material is based upon work by the AirWaterGas Sustainability Research Network Education and Outreach Project in the College of Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, supported by National Science Foundation grant no. CBET 1240584. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

The authors also express their appreciation for the support of the University of Colorado’s Office of Outreach and Engagement, and acknowledge the REACCTING Project, which was used as a model study design in this activity.

Last modified: May 4, 2017

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