The SUN Project

The SUN (Students Understanding eNergy) Project develops physical and digital manipulatives to promote understanding of the biological energy transfer processes of cellular respiration and photosynthesis.

sun project logoThe SUN (Students Understanding eNergy) Project develops physical and digital manipulatives to promote understanding of the biological energy transfer processes of cellular respiration and photosynthesis. These include nested trays with components that highlight common components and relationships within each process, and a mechanical ATP synthase. Digital materials include the SUN Mitochondrial E-book and the SUN Chloroplast E-book (View an introduction to the SUN Chloroplast E-book here).

img-sunmitochondrion-ebook-photoimg-sunproject-photos6

Please see: Batiza A.F, Gruhl M., Zhang B., Harrington T., Roberts M., LaFlamme D., Haasch M.A., Knopp J., Vogt G., Goodsell, D., Hagedorn E., Marcey D., Hoelzer M. and D. Nelson (2013). “The effects of the SUN Project on teacher knowledge and self-efficacy regarding biological energy transfer are significant and long-lasting: results of a randomized controlled trial,” CBE-Life Sciences Education, 12:287-305.

Bruce Prentice, the DNR Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, piloted the new SUN materials with other teachers from Ashland High School. Here he examines a prototype of an ATP synthase manipulative.

Bruce Prentice, the DNR Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, piloted the new SUN materials with other teachers from Ashland High School. Here he examines a prototype of an ATP synthase manipulative.

In addition the SUN Project has developed a new conceptual framework for understanding these processes. Matter and energy transformations are understood by analogy to a hydrogen plus oxygen explosion and the working of a hydrogen fuel cell. Attention is focused on similarities between cellular respiration and a hydrogen fuel cell and between cellular respiration and photosynthesis through explicit one-to-one correspondence in terms of:

  • the ultimate electron donor
  • the ultimate electron acceptor
  • the work done when electrons move

Participants use these new models and digital resources to:

  • Learn how concentrated protons power the ATP Synthase
  • Compare the mitochondrion to a hydrogen fuel cell
  • Use the hydrogen fuel cell to understand electron donor and acceptor and that moving electrons can do work.
  • Use physical models to compare and contrast cellular respiration and photosynthesis
  • Use physical and digital models to develop a robust conceptual understanding of their electron transport chains
  • Compare physical models of cytochrome c from humans, tuna and yeast
  • Explore the SUN Mitochondrial E-book and the SUN Chloroplast E-book to learn about the electron transport chains of cellular respiration and photosynthesis. (View an introduction to the SUN Chloroplast E-book here.)

Ann Batiza, Ph.D, is director of the SUN Project Research Center at Milwaukee School of Engineering. She is the author of Bioinformatics, Genomics and Proteomics: Getting the Big Picture a trade textbook for young adults and also serves as an adjunct assistant professor in the Physics and Chemistry Department at MSOE. For inquiries related to the SUN materials, please contact Dr. Batiza at (414) 277-2825.

Who Funds the SUN Projects?
The development of the original SUN Project materials and the cluster, randomized controlled test of their effectiveness has been supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305E070443 to MSOE.

  • IES-funded Secondary School SUN Project
    Ann Batiza, Ph.D. (PI), SUN Director, MSOE
    Mary Gruhl, Ph.D. (Co-PI), president of Gruhl Education Consultants LLC
    Professor Dave Nelson (Co-PI) co-author of Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry, UW-Madison
    Tim Herman, Ph.D. (Co-PI), Director of the CBM at Milwaukee School of Engineering

The development of the SUN Chloroplast E-book and physical models of protein complexes involved in photosynthesis and their piloting has been supported by the National Science Foundation through Grant 1044898. (View an introduction to the SUN Chloroplast E-book here.)

  • NSF-funded Undergraduate SUN Project
    Ann Batiza, Ph.D. (PI), SUN Director, MSOE
    Professor David Goodsell (Co-PI) The Scripps Research Institute and author of The Machinery of Life and the Molecule of the Month at the Protein Data Bank
    Professor Bo Zhang (Co-PI) Department of Educational Psychology, UW-Milwaukee
    Professor Dave Nelson (Co-PI) co-author of Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry, UW-Madison

Who Are SUN Project Participants?
IES-funded SUN Project: High school biology teachers, largely from across Wisconsin, have partnered with us to assess the impact of a two-week workshop and these new learning tools in their classrooms. In addition, a small group of Advanced Placement biology teachers are using the newly developed SUN materials as a pilot study in AP classrooms. Click here to see a picture of all participants taken at the beginning of the 2010 workshop.

NSF-funded Undergraduate SUN Project: Scientists and educators from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee School of Engineering are incorporating SUN materials into biochemistry, biomolecular engineering and energy and the environment courses.

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