Start Up company FLEXHIBIT Awarded $225,000 SBIR Grant To Create New STEM Learning Experiences for Science Students in Spokane!

Written by Wendy Stenbeck, Director of STEM Integration, FLEXCART, a Division of FLEXHIBIT

National Institute Of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institute of Health (NIH) has awarded FLEXHIBIT a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for their innovation, the BIOME FLEXCART.  This funding opportunity falls under the NIGMS STEM Interactive Digital Media (IDM) program and supports FLEXHIBIT’S “Transforming STEM Education in K-12 using the Biological Interactive Outcomes Modular Environment (BIOME)” Project.  NIGMS supports basic research that increases understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. The SBIR supports early stage research and development projects at small businesses. The award was issued on 9/17/18 and the project team has started the work to accomplish the specific aims and goals of the BIOME Phase I project.

“We could not be more excited!” said Coleen Quisenberry the primary owner of the awardee company, IQ Smart Interactive, LLC dba FLEXHIBIT. “Not only receiving the grant, but the opportunity to collaborate with such incredible experts in their respective fields. It is an amazing time for all of us!” The members of the BIOME project team are: Peter Tucker: Mathematics and Computer Science professor at Whitworth University. His role on the project team is Computer Software Engineer; Lead Software Developer for the BIOME. Dave Gamon is a STEM Coordinator and middle school CTE teacher for the Mead School District. His role on the project team is NGSS Storyboard Narrative; Curriculum Consultant. Wendy Stenbeck is the Director of STEM Integration for FLEXHIBIT and her role on the project team is Principal Investigator (PI); Co-writer for BIOME Proposal. Scott Grambo is an Electrical Engineer and DMI Developer. His role on the project team is to assist in software development and design and complete the electrical components of the BIOME. Jordan Quisenberry is the Project Manager for FLEXHIBIT. His role on the project is Project Manager for Fabrication and Production. Andrew Fedderson and James Hunter are both fabricators for FLEXHIBIT. Their role on the project team is building the BIOME Environment FLEXCART. SolidWorks Design Engineer: TBD. Louise Cavender is the Administrative Secretary for FLEXHIBIT.  She will fulfill the administrative role for the BIOME project. Chrystal Quisenberry is a former team member (PhD in Bioengineering) and Co-Writer for the BIOME Proposal. She currently works for Lee & Hayes, PLLC.

Wendy Stenbeck, the principal investigator said “This diverse and talented team of professionals has six months to complete two BIOME prototype FLEXCARTS. Both BIOME prototypes will be tested in the Mead School District and Spokane Public Schools for usability feedback from students and teachers”.

The BIOME FLEXCART innovation provides a K-12 STEM tool designed to improve STEM education through interactive digital media resources (IDM). The Biological Interactive Outcomes Modular Environment (BIOME) will leverage new and established teaching pedagogies to improve problem solving skills, teamwork, conceptual reasoning, content understanding, interest, and user experience for educators and students through inquiry-based, context-driven, adaptive software in a conducive learning environment. The proposed BIOME will improve student teamwork and problem solving as it will require collaborative project-based learning, supporting Most Important Group (MIG) data research in STEM and it is an effective, engaging learning STEM tool because of its NGSS-guided, inquiry-based, context-driven, adaptable, inclusive, reinforcing, and relevant curriculum paired with a permissive learning environment. Specifically, students will finally be able to perform lab experiments in a hands-on environment, that are too expensive or unsafe for traditional settings. Subjects that were difficult for students to conceptualize are made available for visual, auditory, kinesthetic and other learning styles with 3D animations and "what if" experiments. Best of all, the BIOME is inquiry-based, meaning that students can make mistakes, hone their hypotheses, and learn the underlying concepts in a user-defined way. The physical environment of the BIOME contains 4 adjustable industrial grade large touchscreens on a custom-built mobile cart which inspires a permissive (standing) learning stance and can be transported between classrooms.

Professional Development (PD) will be provided to our customers as a part of the required clock hours and STEM hours needed for teacher certificate renewal. We believe this is an important component of the BIOME’s potential success. FLEXHIBIT’s certified teaching staff will instruct educators on how to use the BIOME and the associated NGSS lesson plans. This allows teachers to come into the school year prepared and ready to use the BIOME and the knowledge and confidence to teach these concepts.  

FLEXCART a division of FLEXHIBIT that is devoted to enhancing and improving K-12 STEM education, will provide a lease program. The goal of the lease program is to provide equity in K-12 Education by reducing financial barriers to accessing STEM Technology in the classroom.

Conclusively, the BIOME will spark student interest in research careers by introducing real-life scenarios and practices that incorporate biological innovation, engineering, computer science, digital technology and integration, and research applications. The BIOME will improve education infrastructure, scientific literacy, aid teachers in developing Life Science curriculum, and ultimately develop a diverse globally competitive STEM workforce that will increase US economic competitiveness.