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Title: NOVA making stuff: Season 2

Over the course of four weeks in fall 2013, 11.7 million Americans tuned in to PBS to follow host David Pogue as he led them in search of engineering and scientific breakthroughs poised to change our world. Levitating trains, quantum computers, robotic bees, and bomb-detecting plants—these were just a few of the cutting-edge innovations brought into the living rooms of families across the country in NOVA’s four-part series, Making Stuff: Faster, Wilder, Colder, and Safer. Each of the four one-hour programs gave viewers a behind-the-scenes look at novel technologies poised to change our world—showing them how basic research and scientific discovery can hold the keys to transforming how we live. Making Stuff Season 2 (MS2) combined true entertainment with educational value, creating a popular and engaging series that brought accessible science into the homes of millions. NOVA’s goal to engage the public with such technological innovation and basic research extended beyond the broadcast series, including a variety of online, educational, and promotional activities: original online science reporting, web-only short-form videos, a new online quiz-game, social media engagement and promotion, an educational outreach “toolkit” for science educators to create their own “makerspaces,” an online community of practice, a series of nationwidemore » Innovation Cafés, educator professional development, a suite of teacher resources, an “Idealab,” participation in national conferences, and specialized station relation and marketing. A summative evaluation of the MS2 project indicates that overall, these activities helped make a significant impact on the viewers, users, and participants that NOVA reached. The final evaluation conducted by Concord Evaluation Group (CEG) confidently concluded that the broadcast, website, and outreach activities were successful at achieving the project’s intended impacts. CEG reported that the MS2 series and website content were successful in raising awareness and sparking interest in innovation, and increased public awareness that basic research leads to technological innovation; this interest was also sustained over a six month period. Efforts to create an online community of practice were also successful: the quality of collaboration increased, and community members felt supported while using Maker pedagogy. These findings provide clear evidence that large-scale science media projects like MS2 are an effective means of “moving the needle” on attitudes about and excitement for science. NOVA’s broadcast audience and ratings have always indicated that a large portion of the population is interested in and engages with educational science media on a weekly basis. Yet these evaluation results provide the empirical evidence that beyond being capable of attracting, maintaining, and growing a dedicated group of citizens interested in science, these shows—with their diverse content provided on a variety of media channels—are capable of sparking new interest in science, raising public awareness of the importance of science, and maintaining and growing that interest over time. In a country where approximately a quarter of the population doesn’t know the earth rotates around the sun,1 roughly half still don’t accept evolution,2 and about 20% don’t think climate change is happening,3 the importance of these findings cannot be overstated. The success of MS2 suggests that large-scale media projects dedicated to and linked by coverage of scientific “big ideas” are an effective means of shifting public opinion on—and improving understanding of—science. REFERENCES 1, 2 National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators (2014). Chapter 7: Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding. 3 Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Feinberg, G., & Rosenthal, S. (2014) Climate change in the American mind: April, 2014. Yale University and George Mason University. New Haven, CT: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.« less
 [1] ;  [2]
  1. WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, MA (United States)
  2. Concord Evaluation Group, Concord, MA (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, MA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
Contributing Orgs:
Concord Evaluation Group
Country of Publication:
United States
36 MATERIALS SCIENCE; 99 GENERAL AND MISCELLANEOUS scientific innovation; material science; STEM