S. S. Columbia Project (2016-2017 term)

S. S. Columbia Project (2016-2017 term)

How might we use a unique out-of-school environment to improve engagement in classroom learning for struggling students?

The SS Columbia Project aims to revive the National Historic Landmark SS Columbia steamboat while fostering community engagement and STEM education. Our multidisciplinary team of technologists, engineers, and educational experts will be developing innovative social impact experiences while exploring inclusive interactive possibilities for the iconic steamboat.

Mentor: Lee Kim

Project Leaders: Elana Blinder 

Team: Rhonda Lee Davis, Shashank Pawar, Tanvi Sinha, Tracy Zhao

Previous and Alumni members: Tatiana Pilon, Shannon Holloway, Peter Arbaugh, and Tianyi Chen

Brief Journey of the Project in Fall 2016


The S.S. Columbia Project officially launched this past fall, with the goal of exploring how we might effectively use the National Historic Landmark SS Columbia as a platform for teaching and inspiring children in New York City and other communities along the Hudson River. During the summer we conducted research on site at the steamship in Buffalo, and locally with New York City students and program directors, to gain insight into the needs, interests, and learning goals of our potential users. The team’s initial focus was on designing a unique on-board experience capable of positively influencing classroom engagement for struggling upper elementary students. However, as The team learned that the S.S. Columbia would not be arriving in New York for at least another year and a half, they decided to shift course. Though the team maintained our focus on addressing students’ socio-emotional struggles, they instead chose to design an educational after school program aimed at preparing students for their eventual visit to the ship itself.


The team developed a journey map representing our program design, which leverages cooperative gameplay and scaffolded team-based hands-on challenges in order to promote students’ social intelligence and collaboration skills. Upon receiving favorable feedback to this design approach from after school program directors, teachers, and parents, the team began sketching out our game’s mechanics, narrative, academic content, and visuals, with the intention of developing a simple paper prototype that can be play-tested with kids when they reconvene in the spring 2017. The journey Map is shown below:

Photographs of the journey:

(From Top Left to Bottom Right: (1) Prototyping, (2) Inside the boat, (3) Personal Development, (4) Synthesis, (5) December project Expo)


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