Science, Math, Technology

Parents and Digital Media

Parents and educators who are eager to be responsible role-models in the digital age will be excited by the work of Central Michigan University’s Director of the Family Health Lab, Dr. Sarah Domoff .

Work from one of Dr. Domoff’s presentations,  Parenting in the Digital Age: Implications for Child Health and Development, expanded on her work in the Family Health Lab research which is working to “create evidence-based practices that promote effective media parenting.” This work was featured on WDIV-Channel 4 Detroit, a local NBC affiliate. Congratulations, Dr. Domoff and Family Health Lab!

Educators and parents are confronted with the daily challenges of ensuring that young people are connected to the many benefits of digital media without being overwhelmed by the developmentally inappropriate values, messages, and possible adverse implications for linguistic and cognitive development.

For ongoing updates and further information please check out Dr. Domoff’s website for the Family Health Research Lab at Family Health Research Lab-Central Michigan University .

Very important work, indeed.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What are effective boundaries to establish regarding digital media?
  2. How should parents and educators consider a child’s developmental stage when considering digital media consumption?
  3. What does the research suggest are impacts of digital media consumption on development?
  4. How does a parent’s level of education impact their interactions with their children regarding “screen-time?”
  5. How did Dr. Domoff and the lab actually study this?

Becoming a Researcher

Readers of this blog know that one of my missions is to help secondary educators connect their students to the world of research and to help them think like a researcher. For many high school students, the world of academic research is completely outside of their frame of reference and they likely have never met a single person who is conducting research. So, I’m trying to help teachers connect their students to real people behind the research so that some student might think, “I’d like to do that someday!”

A special thanks to Dr. Domoff for being this blog’s first interview subject! This was conducted via email in December, 2016.

1. How did you become interested in research in general? “It is hard to say what exactly made me interested in research in general. I knew I wanted to help children and families when I began studying psychology in undergrad. Through my psychology coursework, I learned that I could help improve the lives of children on a wider scale by answering questions salient to the health and well-being of children through research.”

2. How did you choose your research topics specifically? “As a clinical psychologist, inspiration for my research often comes from interactions I have had with children and their parents, as well as through conversations with other adults in children’s lives (e.g., teachers, other health professionals). For example, parents are concerned about whether screen media use can negatively affect their children, but also recognize the importance of technology to their children. Hearing about the dilemmas that parents face and the challenges that mobile technology/media present to parents brings to me many questions I’d like to answer as a researcher.”

3. Did you have any experiences in high school that helped spark your curiosity in research? “I had the opportunity to take Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology with a wonderful teacher, Mr. James Lauer. I recall doing brief, but interesting, experiments in class to illustrate different concepts in psychology. I found those experiential activities so exciting. After that course, I knew I wanted to major in psychology when I went to college.”

4. What could high school teachers do to help promote research literacy in students? “What I find useful to students who are learning about research methods is to bring in news stories that cover research that was recently published. I recommend having students critique/evaluate how the popular press presents the results and compare it to the original research paper. I also would bring in advertisements or other media that use “research” to sell products or “news” to have students apply their knowledge of research to evaluating the messages they receive.”

5. Any key ideas from your presentation “Parenting in the Digital Age” that you want to share? “Some of the key points are covered in the above news segment if you’d like to share with your blog readers.”

Thank you so much Dr. Domoff. As an educator and parent of teens, I am personally grateful for your time and the important work of your lab. We look forward to hearing more exciting news from your lab!

Who was Norman Borlaug?

According to the University of Minnesota, their graduate, Norman Borlaug, was “the man who saved a  billion lives.” Not bad for a boy growing up in 12 miles from the nearest town in rural Iowa in the early 1900’s, and whose education began in a one room school house.

Borlaug, went on to study Forestry at the University of Minnesota (after initially flunking the entrance exams!) Then he earned a Masters, followed by a  PhD studying plant disease. He received a big break in 1944 when he was invited to work on a project in Mexico to help the farmers grow their own wheat.

His research and work in educating farmers left a long legacy of helping develop self-sufficiency and feeding the world. His work is acknowledged as being at the leading edge of the “Green Revolution” and his work and teachings live on.


The University of Minnesota have an excellent Norman Borlaug website devoted to his work. Anyone who is interested in ecology, biology, agriculture, history, or anyone seeking inspiration about how a dedicated, passionate researcher can truly make a positive impact on humanity should learn more about him and check out the website. Be sure also to check out his 2001 Nobel Centennial Symposia speech at  as well as the video Rusts Never Sleep available under the resources link at the website.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What were some of the formative experiences of Norman’s early years?
  2. What were his early educational experiences?
  3. What were significant world events that shaped his research?
  4. How did Norman persevere through significant adversity? Give examples.
  5. What were the topics of his master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation?
  6. While in Mexico, what was his group’s unspoken motto?
  7. Describe how the “shuttle breeding” program worked?
  8. What threat did the stem rust fungus cause and how did his work prevent worse destruction of crops?
  9. What were three significant contributions Borlaug made to the benefit of humanity?

What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”



75 Years of Nuclear Research-University of Chicago

On December, 2 1942, in a lab at the University of Chicago, scientists created the first self-sustained controlled nuclear chain reaction.

Seventy five years later, the university is engaging in a thought-provoking reflection and examination of this event with events throughout the community and via excellent resources posted on their website.

One of the most compelling is the public art installation of Nuclear Thresholds which is integrated into Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy.

The seventy five foot long black cords lay in a messy heap next to Moore’s well contained forms, leaving the viewer uneasy, unsure of what to make of the thin black materials.

For sure, this piece will generate conversation and hopefully a deeper reflection on the role this technological advancement has played in our society.

If you missed the actual anniversary last month, I believe a well thought out thematic unit can still explore the numerous questions evoked by this anniversary. A great video resource produced by UChicago Creative is a must see for all secondary educators interested in using this topic for critical reasoning and discussion-Nuclear Reactions-a Complex Legacy. 

How are you teaching about this significant historical event?

It seems like following the inspiration of University of Chicago and approaching it with a multidisciplinary perspective might be a wonderful way to engage your students and discuss a topic whose relevance is as timely as ever. The video concludes with a call for interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle the world’s biggest problems and asks, “What is your contribution going to be?”

A great question to reflect upon as we begin this new year.

Questions for Discussion following the video:

  1. What is your reaction to the quote by University of Chicago president, George Wells Beadle in 1967?
  2. What was the initial reaction to the development of the atomic bomb?
  3. How did the University of Chicago faculty respond to the development of the atomic bomb?
  4. How was nuclear technology used to benefit people?
  5. The video asks,” How do we get to a world without nuclear weapons?”


Engineering Students on a Mission 

EnableUC, a University of Cincinnati engineering student group, is on a mission.
Quite simply, they want to make your life better. This inspirational group, whose work on providing prosthetic limbs, created by 3-D printing to underprivileged individuals,  have taken the time to share their story with us.
Below, is an email interview primarily with Michael, a member of EnableUC, edited only for clarity.
1. Can you tell Wide Open Research readers a bit about how you wanted to go into engineering and specifically how you chose to work on the prosthetics?
“For me personally, I always have wanted to help people out medically because I see it as one of the most immediate ways to improve someone’s life as well as get to work directly with the people you help.
As I explored majors and careers, however, I felt that my mind was more engineering driven. With this in mind, biomedical engineering just seemed like a perfect fit. I thought initially that a lot of BMEs do prosthetics and such, but the major is much broader, and I never was really exposed to that world until Jacob, our president and founder, reached out to me about starting Enable UC.
I think Jacob really saw an opportunity through the larger Enable open source site to help patients he had interacted with at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime. Since kids are constantly growing, they don’t want to waste it at that age, but a lot of times. by the time a child is fully grown, they are so used to using their nondefective hand that when they actually get a prosthetic, they don’t even use it. This helps  combat both of those issues.”

“The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime.”

2.  What sort of general knowledge did you learn in high school that was foundational for your engineering success at college? Concepts, skills, facts, etc. 
“I would say the biggest thing I learned is how to solve problems. While the classes I take here can sometimes be much different than my high school classes, I would say the science and math I took began to help me find ways to solve problems, and that is really what an engineer’s job is all about. So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

“So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

3. How much time do you commit to the Enable team and how do you balance your class responsibilities? What advice would you give high school students on managing the demands of college….
“I personally work on a lot of the upfront patient relations of the enable team, so a lot of my time was spent up front finding patients for us to design solutions for.
While this takes some time, I would say the best things to do are to be realistic with your time, schedule it out, and write down the things you want to accomplish and get done with each task.
The biggest advice I would give to a high schooler transitioning into college is to establish habits early and stick to them because they will create your patterns for the rest of your career. “
4.  What are some cool science/tech things you wished you would have explored more in high school?
“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity and help you understand the trajectory of science and tech moving forward.
Things like 3D printing, unique clean energy solutions, nano-technology, and more are really cool things that show how much our world is constantly innovating and creating new solutions to the many problems we have in our world.”

“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity….”

5. Did you have any moments in high school where it really became apparent that you wanted to go into engineering? Any classes or teachers that really inspired you?
“I don’t remember there being a really strong moment for me in terms of an ah-ha moment, but I do remember absolutely loving designing both a mousetrap car and a Rube Goldberg device during my science classes in high school.

What I think I loved was figuring out how to best solve the problem and doing so in a group setting that allowed me to work with and understand a team and how each individual works within that team to solve our problem.”

6.  With the many distractions that high school students face these days, how would you recommend teachers really engage students?
“I think one really unique way to do this would be to challenge them at the beginning to tell me some cool things they might want to learn from the subject and having them outline some of what they want to get out of the class besides just an A.
I think if that could then be tied in more deeply with the lesson plans, that would help engage students because they would feel they had an active part in determining their learning.”
7. Any luck with the crowd-funded project?
“We have had some awesome luck with it. We reached our initial goal to provide funding for our first myoelectric prosthetic project, which is currently in the design process already! We think our unique organization allows students to really get hands-on experience and change lives. This translates really well to people who might have a few bucks to get rid of. I think we will continue to see this success moving forward as well.”
A hand they made from 3-D printing:
8.  I know that Enable UC was interested in helping high school students who might not know much about engineering become exposed to the field. What sort of outreach have you been working on?
“We have done some local Cincinnati high school outreach where we are basically trying to get students exposed to what we do by showing them our organization as well as providing seminars about engineering, design, Solidworks, etc.
This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at UC to try to draw them towards engineering. We also plan to go into schools and set up those seminars that I mentioned, but we are in the early stages of our outreach.”

“This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at the University of Cincinnati to try to draw them towards engineering.”

9. Any good ideas about how to help more “non-traditional” students become interested in engineering?
“I think the best way to get non-traditional students to really get interested in engineering is to relate it to their interests. For example, maybe they are an athlete. Being able to teach them about the forces their muscles provide when doing their sport could make them interested in engineering. Just finding ways to relate engineering concepts to their interests is the best way to pique someone’s interest.”
After graduation Michael is going to be working in a tech-start-up, other UCEnable members are continuing their studies in medical school, graduate school, and work in the medical device industry.
EnableUC is still seeking to serve. So, if you would like to contact them to get more information about their group or if you know someone who could benefit from their work on prosthetics please reach out to them @EnableUC.
For more reading on 3-D Printing, please read this article: