York University leads project to design innovative STEM teaching app

Sushanta Mitra

York University Professor Sushanta Mitra and his team at the Lassonde School of Engineering have partnered with the public and private sector to develop a digital learning tool that aims to enhance academic success for high school students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The learning modules are built on Quanser’s trademarked qdex™ app development platform, and are specifically designed for rich STEM content.

This project leverages modern, mobile-based technology to engage high school students in subject areas they typically find challenging. By using cell phone and tablet technology that is native to this generation, Mitra and the partners hope to see better academic success and inspire the students to continue their education in STEM subjects.

The content is being created with the help of student developers with key curriculum inputs from teachers at York Region’s St. Robert’s School in Markham.

“Often we have the best and brightest students coming into our programs from Grade 12, but after their first and second year, many are not able to keep up,” said Mitra. “We believe that we’re not providing with them the right tools and mechanisms to make them successful right from high school. The new qdex™ platform is an effective tool for disseminating knowledge to Grade 11 and 12 students so they’re prepared when they come to university. We believe this is a way to make every student more successful.”

This initiative is funded by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) AdvancingEducation program, aimed at connecting Ontario’s public education system with companies to test and demonstrate innovate products and technology. York University’s Academic Innovation Fund also contributed to the initiative. A partnership between the Ministry of Government & Consumer Services (MGCS) and OCE, AdvancingEducation brings innovation into classrooms across the province by matching needs in the public education system with innovative products and services from Ontario companies.

“We know that even high school students who excel in mathematics can struggle with advanced STEM concepts at the postsecondary level,” said Tom Corr, OCE’s president and CEO. “This partnership between York’s Lassonde School of Engineering, St. Robert Catholic High School and Quanser is now creating a personalized experiential learning tool that bridges the gap between high school math and postsecondary STEM using popular devices like smartphones and tablets.”

Together with Quanser’s qdex™ technology, a unique mobile content development platform allows phones and tablets to do advanced engineering-style computing.

“Quanser is a proud industry partner for this important initiative,” said Paul Gilbert, CEO of Quanser. “We believe that Lassonde School’s innovative approach to education will be the ideal platform to realize the full potential of our qdex™ technology.”

The project’s first target is math content that will better prepare students in Grade 12 to succeed in university-level engineering and science programs. The modules allow students to experience real-world applications of math and science concepts.

“St. Robert students have an incredible opportunity to develop, explore and utilize innovative module applications that will better enable them to excel in postsecondary STEM applications,” said Patricia Preston, director of education, York Catholic District School Board. “St. Robert’s students have been using the qdex™ learning platform for nearly one month with much success, and it is our hope that more students will be inspired to advance their studies and choose careers in STEM.”