Recipients of the Sylvia Earl Innovation Award

Launched in 2012 through a generous grant from Jim and Sylvia Earl, the annual Sylvia Earl Innovation award provides funds to support the generation, development, and piloting of new ideas that can create a measurable impact in the teaching, learning, and support of education in any and all areas of the College. The College looks at four key criteria to ensure that winning projects are technology driven, innovative, clear and measurable, replicable and scalable.

Wheelock faculty, staff, students, deans, administrators, and staff are eligible to submit proposals individually or in groups.

Click on the  project names to learn more about an individual project or on the year to see all winning projects for that year.

Sylvia Earl Innovation Award Recipients


11 proposals were received  from groups representing students, faculty, and staff. The winning projects were:


11 submissions were received from groups representing students, faculty, deans, and staff. The winning projects were:


8 submissions were received from groups representing students, faculty, and staff. The winning projects were:


12 submissions were received from groups representing students, faculty, and staff. The winning projects were:


8 submissions were received from across the College. The winning projects were:


In the first year of Sylvia Earl Innovation Award, Wheelock received 19 applications. The winning projects were:

2017 Grant Recipients

Handheld Analytical Chemistry: Applications in Science, Archaeology, Service and Sustainability
Submitted by Professors Lisa Lobel, Ellen Faszewski, Akeia Benard, and Jud Hill

This technology provides a tool to be used in the innovative, hands-on and problem-based teaching and learning style practiced at Wheelock. The tool is basically a hand-held x-ray gun used to analyze elements. Access to this level of technology can inspire students and faculty to ask new questions and approach new problems.

Eye Tracking Project
Submitted by Prof. Samuel Cook

This project builds on an initial study Dr. Cook is conducting with Dr. Juan Pablo Mejia-Ramos of Rutgers University to use eye-tracking technology to begin to understand how students read text books. The Earl Grant will boost the impact on the field by allowing the purchase of multiple pairs of glasses, such that enough quantitative data can be collected to conduct proper quantitative studies in realistic time periods. The initial project will be textbook comprehension, including providing quantitative data to support or refute published qualitative textbook understanding research studies. The potential research impacts are limitless with these glasses as the researchers can lead studies that go beyond text books and beyond math.

Patriot Recording Studio
Submitted by Prof. Dan Owusu and student Joshua Simmons

This project builds on work done using a 2016 Sylvia Earl grant to build an on-campus recording studio. The additional funds will be used to hire and train students, improve the quality of digital audio arts, prepare students for audio arts careers, hire a professional audio consultant, upgrade and maintain equipment, and create a business plan to market the fee-for-service aspect of the studio.

Boston Oral History in the Digital Age
Submitted by Prof. Leland Clarke

Working in collaboration with high school seniors from the Boston Green Academy who are completing their required Capstone Community Action Project and Sustainability Internships with Dr. Clarke, along with Wheelock undergraduate students, Boston Oral History in the Digital Age will include visits to landmark sites and a collective variety of source-types—live performances, sound recordings, written documents, material sites, objects and artifacts, moving and still images, and life-history material—providing faculty and students opportunities to explore the common research practices of selection, interpretation, and representation.

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2016 Grant Recipients

Quad Wrangle
Submitted by Stephen Dill, Marketing Director

Implement a project which will increase engagement with current students & alumni.

Studio Recording System
Submitted by Leland Clarke - Professor of Education and Music, Daniel Owusu - Instructor in American Studies, Blake McNamara '18

The purchase of a new digital audio recording system that will complement and integrate with the other digital teaching and production facilities in the Multi-Media Lab.

Sustainability and Nutrition Tracking through Technology
Submitted by Ryan Antolick '16, Stephanie Enderson '19 and Lisa Lobel - Assistant Professor of  Biology

To promote sustainability on campus and student fitness and wellness. In addition, to reduce paper usage in the cafeteria.

Stem App Transition and Market Strategy
Submitted by Babara Joseph - Manager, Online Learning Aspire Institute, Ann Glannon - Interim Director/Collection Management Librarian

This proposal is for support for a summer intern to work in coordination with Barbara Joseph, our Math and Science Faculty, and the Earl Center to transition the app to a more functional tool that can generate interest in STEM.

Open Educational Resources: Making Learning Affordable
Submitted by Maric Kramer and Rosalind Bucy - Learning and Research Services Librarians, Ann Glannon - Interim Director/Collection Management Librarian

To make required textbooks accesible at a reduced out of pocket cost.

Digital Repository/Archive for Faculty and Student Research
Submitted by Detris Honora Adelabu, Ed. D., Co-Dean for Academic Affairs

To provide long term preservation of scholarly works produced in and about the Wheelock community.

Bees for Wheelock 
 Submitted by Charles (Jud) Hill, Not provided/not in the Wheelock Directory

To continue to use the bees as a learning tool.

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2015 Grant Recipients

College Pathways Truck by Wheelock College - Early College Access (ECA)
Submitted by Marta Rosa & Cara Rubenstein

The Earl Grant will allow for a truck (similar to a food truck) to travel in the Boston area and beyond. This opportunity will bring an increase in the number of students and families being served by Wheelock's Early College Access program. In addition, it will create an opportunity for Wheelock Students and staff to engage with community.

Submitted by Meaghan Roper, Class of 2018

The Earl funds will establish a resource app for Wheelock students, faculty, and staff.  The purpose of this resource app is to design a network for organizations to connect with teachers that support different learning styles in the classroom. In addition, this app will build a community for support and offer materials to use in the classroom and beyond.

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2014 Grant Recipients

Wheelock Social Correspondents
Submitted by Wheelock Marketing Department, Stephen Dill, Marketing Director

Objective: Leverage a Sylvia Ear/Innovation Award to create a corps of student correspondents who are equipped with tools and skills to document their days at Wheelock on social media.

Program Goals

  • Beginning in September, 2014, recruit 5 students from all levels (first years to graduate students)
  • Train them on Social Correspondence: how to capture what is happening and post it on social media
  • Equip them with iPads and access to key social accounts direct and through Hootsuite

Expected Outcomes

  • Increase student-generated content on key social profiles
  • Empower & increase the "student voice"
  • Capture more of student life
  • Expand audience for campus news
  • Bring more attendees to campus events

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Stand Up, Speak Out
Submitted by Rachel Copans, sophomore undergraduate student and Passion for Action Scholar

The Earl Grant will allow hiring of a web design company to revitalize, expand, and maintain the website for the anti-bullying organization Stand Up, Speak Out: On a Mission to End Bullying, which Copans founded in May 2010. Stand Up, Speak Out serves two important purposes. First, it helps educate children, parents, and educators about bullying and the extreme, lasting effects it has on individuals. Secondly, it provides people with the opportunity to share their experiences with bullying—as well as their thoughts and feelings about this issue—with others through the "Creative Comer" on the Stand Up, Speak Out website. Contributing to the "'Creative Comer" gives people who have been affected by bullying a voice and an audience. It also lets them know they are not alone. Even those who do not feel called to contribute to this section of the website can benefit from engaging with the experience of others.

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Wheelock Needs BEES
Submitted by student groups Investigating Green Energy and Whee-SEA

The Earl funds will establish a bee colony on the rooftop of Wheelock's Activities West building, where students can learn to care for and gather the fruits of their labor. The colony will be established at Wheelock in the fall of 2014. Wheelock students would share expertise and concerns among the COF members; Mass College of Art has hives also besides Simmons College and Fenway High School. They may decide to use a series of GoPro cameras at each location to document the hive activity. The Colony Collapse Disorder of bees has decimated the bee population nationwide. Is this a big deal? Yes it is! One third of all American crops are fertilized by bees. Interestingly, urban bees appear to be doing much better that their rural and suburban cousins. Noah Wilson-Rich has received his PhD from Tufts and is conducting a longitudinal study on urban bees. We would be part of this study.

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Assessing Urban Heat Islands and Ecosystem Benefits of Urban Trees
Submitted by Lisa Lobel, Wheelock Assistant Professor and Director of Colleges of the Fenway Center for Sustainability and the Environment

The new undergraduate Environmental Studies Major at Wheelock, like many programs in Environmental Studies, is gaining higher visibility due to increasing demands for natural resources and the realities of climate change. Environmental Studies is interdisciplinary exploring the social, economic, and scientific contexts within each environmental issue. This proposal addresses the specific impacts of increased temperatures in the built environment resulting in negative impacts on energy consumption, air, and water quality. These factors have direct impacts on environmental and human health. To foster a deeper understanding, students need to be able to relate and integrate abstract concepts across disciplines to real-world examples. This ability is integral to the new skill set needed by today's graduates and is supported in environmental studies courses and programs. To expand Wheelock's science capabilities into the field of Environmental Studies, this proposal aims to use technology to study the urban heat island effect and how ecosystem services provided by trees and green space help to mitigate this impact. The project will use both the Wheelock Campus and the Muddy River of the Emerald Necklace as "natural" outdoor laboratories. This study would involve using data loggers and a novel new application called opentreemap cloud. This technology-based version of Urban Environmental Education offers numerous opportunities for student engagement and study. These research experiences provide the needed connections between self, society, and environment and supports long-term community partnerships.

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2013 Grant Recipients

2013 Sylvia Earl Innovation Award Winners

The STEM App Project: Exciting Families and Children about STEM
Submitted by Aspire, Barbara Joseph, Online Solutions Project Manager

This initiative, implemented in 2012 with a Sylvia Earl Innovation Award grant, seeks to continue the development of the STEM activity application and expand to an additional Boston school. The STEM app is designed to target activities for students in grades 3-5 and their parents, as studies suggest that students at this age begin to show less interest in science. Further studies indicate that increased parental engagement in STEM activities with their children holds the promise of inspiring a higher level of interest in science and math activities. The advanced technology of this app allows integration of STEM concepts into daily life and encourages parents to engage in areas of STEM with their children in a fun and interactive way.

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Technology Initiative for Paperless Writing Center
Submitted by the Writing Center, Gillian Devereux, Writing Support Specialist

This innovative project will move the Writing Center toward becoming paperless. Rather than keeping paper records on student consultations, this initiative will allow the implementation of a digital format accessed via iPads. This digital format provides both students and consultants with access to interactive grammar exercises, reference websites, and research tools. This initiative aligns well with the Wheelock mission as it will give students ownership of their development as academic writers. A "paperless" writing center also reinforces the College's green initiatives and helps prepare students to use digital technology in the professional world.

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Submitted by the Office of Disability Services, Rachel Buday, Coordinator of Disability Services

Many students, both with and without disabilities, struggle with taking notes effectively. This proposal would introduce a tool called Livescribe, described as virtually a computer in a pen. With this device, a student can record and play back audio, create interactive files that combine handwritten notes with simultaneously recorded audio, upload and share audio and digital notes, and utilize the USB capability.  The goals of this tool are to foster student success by improving note-taking skills, and diversifying note-taking methods by using a multisensory approach. This innovative technology will also allow students to self-assess their note-taking skills.

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2012 Grant Recipients

Grantees of the inaugural Sylvia Earl Innovation Award

The STEM Applet: Exciting Families and Children about STEM

Click here for an update on the progress of this project (pdf)
Submitted by:
Barbara Joseph, STEP Project Manager, Jake Murray, Senior Director of Aspire Institute
Summary:        Develop a mobile applet to provide accessible information for STEM topics and education for parents, students, and teachers

Largely missing from the national focus on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education is an appreciation for how families promote learning. Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that parent involvement in children's learning is positively related to their academic success. This holds true across all school communities, grades, ages of students, and content areas.

A key to successful family engagement in support of learning is the comfort-level of parents and caregivers in the areas that their children are studying. Many parents and caregivers, however, are not familiar with STEM topics; some are even 'STEM-phobic.' At the same time, they are extremely busy with limited time to engage children in enriching and fun ways that excite them and promote learning. Parents and caregivers are then at a disadvantage when it comes to supporting their child in STEM topics at home, especially in cultivating a passion that can sustain children's interest in these critical STEM areas and careers as they progress through school.

Recognizing this 'STEM knowledge gap' and the time constraints faced by many families, this project will help develop an applet that provides accessible information about STEM concepts and greatly enhances parent/child engagement in elementary-age STEM topics. Through fun facts, engaging experiments, and thoughtful discussion points developed by Wheelock faculty and other experts, this applet will offer STEM information that can be weaved seamlessly into everyday activities - such as dinner conversations, car rides, and family nights.

For example, parent-child STEM activities might include:

  • Finding the largest 3-digit number possible on license plates  If the license plate is 517-8331, the largest number would be 875.
  • Watching the phases of the moon each night together when walking the dog or just going outside for a few minutes, and recording the changes in a graph.
  • Sharing the 'fun fact' that you would have to walk for seven hours straight to burn off a supersized Coke, fry and Big Mac.

There are numerous websites available that provide fun math and science facts and games for elementary age students. Yet, the reality is that parents have limited time to search the web for this kind of data to engage their children. More importantly, data on the web does not structure parent/child engagement. Providing an applet that will automatically send snippets of fun data to parents allows them to engage with their child in STEM areas in a fun and interactive way. Not only will the facts and data be engaging, we will connect this information to real-life experience of families.

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Click here for an update on the progress of this project (pdf)
Submitted by:
Susan Owusu, Director of Communications and Media Literacy Program
Summary:        Combines three elements: technology, training, and technical support; aims to allow Wheelock members to easily and effectively create and share video content and allow students to pursue digital media as part of their academic experience

Nearly 60 years ago, the first video recorders were created. Used mainly in taping television shows, the original devices sold for over $75,000. Today, the tools needed to both view and create digital video are relatively inexpensive and ubiquitous. Nearly 86% of all Americans will own a Smartphone with video capability by the end of this year. One third of all higher-ed classrooms will use video content as a part of the learning experience. While many classrooms show video content, an increasing number of teachers and students are also creating video content as part of the learning experience.

The use of video in higher education goes beyond the traditional classroom learning environment, with nearly 136 colleges and universities managing their own YouTube channels, hosting content ranging from learning and lectures to on campus activities and events. The explosion of video on college campuses both in and out of the classroom is only expected to continue as more and more online classes and distance learning programs are developed. It's safe to say that video is an indispensable tool on the 21st century campus. What if it was as easy to produce content on campus as it is to watch it? What if student learning could be enhanced, making classroom learning and assessment more engaging? What if the important work of the Wheelock community could be documented and then shared across campus and the world?

Simple in its construction, the Wheevid program is more than access to cameras; it is an integrated system that seeks to redefine the way faculty and staff conceive of video as an educational tool in the classroom and across campus. 

This program will allow us to tape classroom discussions so students can see what and how they are learning, connect faculty members or classrooms with students hundreds or thousands of miles away, share faculty scholarship, and capture the amazing lectures of our visiting scholars. In addition, student scholars could create documentaries as part of their learning portfolio or create service learning trip video blogs that would allow people on campus to virtually travel along to New Orleans or West Africa.

The Wheevid program will:

  • Empower faculty and staff-even those without previous video production experience-to easily access tools and training needed to incorporate video into the learning experience.
  • Make the increasing use of video in and out of the classroom an effective tool instead of just an add on by providing training and technical support for faculty.
  • Enhance student engagement in the learning process by providing the opportunity to use 21st century learning tools in the classroom and for scholarly projects.
  • Capture important content at on-campus programs and activities to share learning with the whole Wheelock community, creating closer connections between staff, students and faculty.
  • Connect Wheelock to the world by sharing learning and action through digital video with local, nation and international audiences.

Meeting these goals will have a huge impact on those who participate directly in video production projects and research. But what makes the Wheevid program so exciting is its potential to have a far greater impact as well. Wheevid projects can be shared around campus and around the world. The viral nature of video will enable Wheevid participant to share learning, research and activities across Wheelock's learning sites and with others now beyond the College's reach.

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Vernier's LabQuest

Click here for an update on the progress of this project (pdf)
Submitted by:  
Chuck Fidler, Assistant Professor of Physical Science
Handheld devices that can transform current science courses into modern science labs; uses innovative technology in portable, wireless devices for physical and life science and mathematical studies

Wheelock's science program is strong. However, it will be even stronger with the inclusion of a classroom set of Vernier's LabQuest 2 (LABQ2), a powerful, cutting edge tool that is digital, wireless, portable, and more efficient than our current equipment. This addition will continue to transform our science courses into modern science labs that allow for better science research and innovative curricula reform.

These handheld devices are ultra-portable and can be used in both physical and life sciences as well as mathematics and beyond. These devices will facilitate much more hands-on, data-driven laboratory experiences for the students, closely mimicking real world science. In science courses, we often go beyond the walls of the lab to conduct experiments. For example, in the Physics of Sports, students analyze basic kinematic motion all over campus. Science and Inquiry has students spending countless hours collecting data in the Muddy River. These handhelds are perfect for on-the-go data analysis and observation.

These devices come standard with built-in temperature, light, and GPS sensors, a microphone, Wi-Fi, and an accelerometer. The sampling rate reaches a stunning 100,000 per second. The range of possibilities offered by these sensors is impressive and they are compatible with many devices we already have. The underlying goal of this of this project is to increase Wheelock's community exposure and enhance the quality of science programming through the use of state-of-the-art technology in order to mimic real world science inquiry.

This technology will serve as a beacon of innovation in the following ways:

  • Address the changing expectations and needs of today's students. Students will conduct scientific investigations with modern equipment, in a modern, inquiry-oriented manner, modeling real-world science.
  • Develop new approaches to enhance real-world experiences and learning. These wireless devices can connect to email and web servers for faster communication between lab partners and better data analysis. The color, touch-screen user interface is user friendly, operating along similar lines as a smart phone.
  • Improve engagement, retention and graduation. By providing a more hands on and successful experience in science, we will boost students' interest and confidence levels in science  and show them it can be fun, relevant to their lives, and meaningful. This endeavor is paramount to the current call for science education reform at the elementary level.
  • Broaden the reach and impact of the College in new and key academic areas. Our faculty will be able to provide professional development institutes or workshops, even taking these portable devices to other schools. Our students can take this technology into elementary schools, enhancing their field experiences. This equipment will also allow our students to submit posters and papers to local, regional, and national conferences.
  • Develop new academic areas of study to meet future needs. School districts are introducing more technology products into classrooms. Knowing how to use these products will make our students better lead teachers. These devices could also help us prepare middle school science teachers, should Wheelock expand into that area.

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