By Martha Swanson – MOXI Museum

MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation in Santa Barbara, has been awarded its first federal funding — a multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation.

The $169,988 grant allows the museum, in partnership with UCSB, to develop a series of nine “engineering exploration” modular programs, the focal point of which are field trips held at the museum.

Each engineering exploration will include accompanying classroom extension activities, curriculum guides for teachers, and a modified version of the program that could be taken to area schools.

“It is a tremendous honor to have been selected for a National Science Foundation grant within our first two years of operations, as the application and selection process is a rigorous one,” said Robin Gose, MOXI president and CEO.

“I am so proud of the work our education team is doing to support teachers and students in our community, and grateful the NSF has recognized the important role organizations like MOXI play in the broader educational ecosystem,” she said.

One of the first programs being prototyped during field trips to the museum presents students with a design challenge related to wildfires.

The scenario and background given to students relates to the fact that to better predict and fight wildfires, scientists need to understand the movement and properties of the atmosphere over large burn areas by collecting data on temperature, humidity and density of the air during such an event.

Students are tasked with thinking critically about this scenario to establish design criteria and constraints for a passive device to be used for the collection of such data.

They are provided with simple materials like yarn, construction paper, tape, paper clips, glue and pennies to design and build prototype devices or vehicles.

Then, they test their designs in one of MOXI’s wind column exhibits, a column of rising air that provides the simulated environment for the atmosphere during a wildfire or other weather event.

MOXI and UCSB have received this funding as the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are being rolled out in K-12 schools throughout the country, including those in Santa Barbara County and throughout California.

The standards, created by a group of educators, scientists and engineers, outline how science should be taught in a traditional classroom setting to improve students’ science education.

 “A major goal of this program is to make the subject of engineering, and specifically, engineering design, more accessible to all students and teachers,” said Ron Skinner, director of education and principal investigator for the grant work at MOXI.

“Most teachers at the elementary level are not equipped to, nor do they have the subject matter expertise, to confidently teach these subjects,” he said.

Skinner will work closely with Danielle Harlow, associate professor at UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, who is the principal investigator for the grant at UCSB.

The grant from the NSF only partially funds MOXI’s field trip and educational programs. Those interested in helping to support the initiative can call 805-770-5003 or email

MOXI is accepting reservations for field trips and the Engineering Exploration programs in the 2018-19 school year. Teachers in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties always get in free, and all field trip groups get a discount on admission to the museum.

For more information, email sales@moxi.orgor visit