IDATA Leadership Team

(in alphabetical order)

Bret Feranchak
Principal Consultant and IDATA External Evaluator
Bret is responsible for Research, Evaluation, and Strategy at Logos Consulting Group, LLC (“Logos”). Logos works with clients, primarily in the academic, philanthropic, and not-for-profit sectors, in enhancing their evaluation utilization in order to improve programs, policies, and organizations. Previously he was Director of Program Evaluation and Applied Research for the Chicago Public Schools (“CPS”), the nation’s third largest school district, where he directed the district’s internal evaluation efforts, including the conceptualization and implementation of a district plan for comprehensive program evaluation, and coordinated the work of external evaluators and researchers. This work included all aspects of program evaluation including fiscal oversight of the district’s multimillion dollar program evaluation portfolio. His evaluation work over the last fifteen years spans across numerous program areas, including the evaluation of mathematics, science, literacy, bilingual, early childhood, high school, and after school programs, as well as working with numerous clients on strategic planning processes related to their evaluation, performance management, and measurement functions. He was graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in chemistry and physics from the Honors Program at the University of Notre Dame. He did doctoral work at the University of Chicago where he received several fellowships including the Karl Max Probst Fellowship from the University of Chicago and a GAANN Fellowship from the U.S. Dept. of Education. Additionally, he is an active member of several professional societies, including the American Educational Research Association and the American Evaluation Association.
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Alexandra Grossi
User-Centered Design (UCD) Experiences Leader
Alexandra is a Graphic Designer and Inclusive Design Advocate. She received her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and a Master of Graphic Design degree from NC State College of Design in May, 2017. Her Master’s thesis centered on the design for a Cochlear Implant User Interface, implementing innovative design solutions to create a better user experience for assistive technology users. Born profoundly deaf, Alexandra got a Cochlear Implant in her right ear when she was 16 and another in her left ear at age 30. Alexandra believes that design can empower users with unique needs. She believes that successful Inclusive Design solutions incorporate user participation early in the design process. Ultimately, she believes design can change perceptions and work to remove negative stigmas around disabilities. For IDATA, Alexandra is conducting an iterative, User-Centered Design process with the Teachers and students of IDATA. In collaboration with Professor Helen Armstrong, Alexandra integrated Design Research Methodologies into activities that the teachers execute with student participants. The information gathered in these activities are used to inform the redesign of Afterglow. Additionally, these activities are designed to empower IDATA students – many of whom are BVI - with design knowledge and a voice that allows them to critically assess software in terms of accessibility.
Kathy Gustavson
IDATA Educator
Kathy is a retired high school physics and astronomy teacher from Nicolet High School in Glendale, WI, where she taught for 32 years. She has done extensive work with the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s Astronomy Club, where the main emphasis is using the world’s two largest radio telescopes to look for a type of star remnant called a pulsar. She was also selected as an Airborne Astronomy Ambassador and flew on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. She has been nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching Science and Math. She is active in the Yerkes Observatory outreach program to students and teachers, and still runs the Astronomy Club at her previous high school. She is involved in The National Space Society’s Enterprise in Space Academy where she puts together modules for students to study. She is also involved in Skynet Junior Scholars where students request images from telescopes around the world. These images are then used to answer questions students have about the objects they have imaged. Her philosophy in teaching to bring space science education to all people. Kathy has a BA in math and Physics, and a MS in science curriculum.
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Josh Haislip
University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill
Skynet’s Senior Systems Engineer and IDATA Software Development Lead
Dr. Al Harper
Yerkes Observatory - University of Chicago, Director of Yerkes Observatory and IDATA Co-PI
Dr. James K. L. Hammerman
TERC, Co-Director of SEEC and Senior Researcher and Evaluator, IDATA Co-PI
Dr. Hammerman‘s research and evaluation work builds on more than 30 years of experience in education, many spent as a teacher, teacher educator, and curriculum developer. Since joining TERC in 2001, Jim has served as principal investigator, lead evaluator, or senior researcher on more than two dozen externally funded research and evaluation projects, focusing on pedagogical and institutional change, mathematics education, environmental education, and data and statistics education. He is principal investigator on an NSF-funded evaluation of a mathematics teacher professional development program. Jim currently leads external evaluations for several projects, including an immersive computer environment for conducting experiments to explore causality and ecology, a state-wide initiative to engage rural youth in computing through programming an online game, and an effort to improve pedagogy among university STEM faculty. Jim has designed, implemented, and researched mathematics and science education curricula and professional development programs, as well as technology tools that support inquiry-oriented learning. He has taught students at levels ranging from kindergarten through graduate school, including methods courses for researchers. Jim is especially interested in adult developmental differences in professional development, data and statistics learning, online and software tools that support exploration, and supporting deeper learning and more reflective practice in professional communities. In his free time, Jim enjoys biking, sailing, gardening, music, and travel. He is also part of a Buddhist meditation group that he helped found. Jim earned his Ed.D. in Learning and Teaching from Harvard Graduate School of Education.
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Kate Meredith
Yerkes Observatory - University of Chicago, Director of Education Outreach, and IDATA Project Educator
Kate Meredith has more than twenty-five years of teaching and curriculum development experience in both formal and informal education. Kate has engaged in curriculum development and project management for the Zooniverse, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Lawrence Hall of Science, the Adler Planetarium Space and Science Museum, and Skynet Junior Scholars (University of Chicago Yerkes Observatory). Kate is passionate about programs that bring authentic research science to learners of all ages, languages, and abilities. Her work with the Zooniverse was to design classroom applications for scientific analysis tools and parent/child teams. Kate’s role with the National Science Foundation grant, Skynet Junior Scholars, was to ensure website accessibility for blind and low vision participants, to facilitate the translation of resource videos into American Sign Language, and to coordinate program modifications for use in summer camp programs for these special needs groups. Her work with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) education and public outreach aims to build bridges between the science, engineering, and big data access of the SDSS and learners of all abilities in diverse classrooms here in the US and in the SDSS Collaboration countries worldwide. Kate excels at building creative pathways for learners into complex science concepts. In July 2015, Kate became Director of Education Outreach at the University of Chicago Yerkes Observatory where her focus has been to build on the legacy of Yerkes Education Outreach as the leader in accessible and inclusive astronomy and STEM education. As Education Lead on the IDATA project, Kate looks forward to being part of the team that takes accessibility to the next level by creating vision-neutral data acquisition and analysis tools as well as the instructional materials needed to teach new users how to use and apply those tools. She sees her role as providing the structure, resources, and creative space that allow the education team to work in close cooperation with programmers and researchers so that the user-centered design process is evident in IDATA products. She will know she has succeeded when newcomers, regardless of visual ability, are able to complete every aspect of astronomy investigations from choosing a target to analyzing data and drawing conclusions without hearing the words, “Oh, just let me do that part for you.”
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Dr. Dan Reichart
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (Skynet), Director of the Skynet Robotic Telescope Network and IDATA Co-PI
Dr. Reichart received B.S. degrees in Astronomy & Astrophysics, Physics, and Mathematics, and a minor in History, from the Pennsylvania State University in 1996. He received M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Astronomy & Astrophysics from the University of Chicago in 1998 and 2000. He then won a prestigious Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship, which he took to the California Institute of Technology. He joined the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002, where he is now a Professor of Physics and Astronomy. Dr. Reichart’s dissertation research on distant, cosmic explosions called gamma-ray bursts was ranked by Science Magazine as one of the top ten discoveries in science in 1999, and in 2003 earned him the Robert J. Trumpler Award, for top astrophysics dissertation research in North America. In 2005, he and his students discovered the most distant explosion in the universe yet known, a gamma-ray burst that occurred 12.9 billion years ago, when the universe was only 6% its current age. To date, Dr. Reichart has published 125 journal articles, including four in Nature and Science magazines, and has raised approaching $10 million for his research. He is also the recipient of the Carl Sagan Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Nathan Sugarman Award for Excellence in Research, the Donn MacMinn Award for Service beyond the Walls of the University, and Ernest F. Fullam Award of Dudley Observatory. Since arriving at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Reichart has been building “Skynet”. Funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, Skynet is an ever-growing collection of fully automated, or robotic, professional-quality telescopes under the control of software developed by Dr. Reichart’s team. Currently, Skynet spans four continents and five countries, and consists of nearly twenty optical telescopes, with mirrors ranging in size from 14 inches to 1 meter in diameter, as well as a 20-meter diameter radio telescope. Skynet publishes in peer-reviewed journals, on average, once every three weeks, and simultaneously serves tens of thousands of students, of all ages, graduate school through elementary school.
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Tim Spuck
Associated Universities Inc. STEM Education Development Officer and IDATA PI
Tim has been a leader in STEM education for more than 20 years. His recent book, “Einstein Fellows: Best Practices in STEM Education”, earned the 2014 Peter Lang Publishing Book of the Year. In addition, Tim has developed and led a range of programs focusing on astronomy and STEM-related education. He currently serves as PI on three NSF supported programs including, Innovators Developing Accessible Tools for Astronomy, the Chile-US Astronomy Education Outreach Summit, and the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program. Prior to his role with AUI, he served as an Einstein Fellow at NSF-EHR Division of Graduate Education, taught astronomy and earth sciences at the high school and college levels for more than 20 years, and served as K–12 Science Coordinator for Oil City Schools. He has led numerous professional development programs throughout the United States and abroad, and has developed a variety of astronomy experiences for learners of all ages. His students regularly engaged in authentic astronomy research, and have been recognized throughout the scientific community for their discoveries. Tim’s own contributions have been recognized through the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics Educator Achievement Award, Tandy Technology Scholars Award, the Pennsylvania Christa McAuliffe Fellowship, PolarTREC, NITARP, TLRBSE, and numerous other STEM education awards and programs. Tim also remains active within the amateur astronomy community, has directed numerous outreach efforts, and led several small-scale observatory design and construction projects. He earned his Masters degree in Science Education from Clarion University or PA, and is completing his Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction at West Virginia University.
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Andreas Stefik
University of Nevada - Las Vegas, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and IDATA Co-PI
For the last decade, Dr. Stefik has been creating technologies that make it easier for people, including those with disabilities, to write computer software. With grants from the National Science Foundation, he helped establish the first national educational infrastructure for blind or visually impaired students to learn computer science. He is the inventor of Quorum, the first evidence-oriented programming language. The design of Quorum is based on rigorous empirical data from experiments on human behavior. As part of his work, he is a PI on the NSF-funded AccessCS10K grant that is helping CS 10K projects prepare K-12 teachers to be more inclusive in their computing courses with students with disabilities. Most recently, Dr. Stefik was honored with the 2016 White House Champions of Change award in computer science education.

Andreas at the White House

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