A Month in Review

The bloggers at STEM-VRSE have been silent lately. Why, you may ask. The answer is time. Musicians, painters, and poets often create art around the theme of how time is a thief. B.B. King once cried that, “Yes time is a thief/That will steal your tomorrows/And leave you only yesterday” and Joseph White once wrote, “A thief of love, breath and living life slips away on cat's feet.” The last month at STEM-VRSE shows that actions constitute a powerful anecdote to time, the thief.

So, what did the actions of STEM-VRSE in the last month do to fight time? Let us start with a brief recap. Between November of 2017 and May of 2018, STEM-VRSE started the process of being recognized as a formal non-profit organization registered in Texas. The mission of this new organization centered on supporting STEM researchers and empowering STEM educators. In addition, the organization supported three early career researchers in conducting research in New Zealand. Also, the organization began the process of creating a web presence and local community presence through social media platforms and local community activities. Beginning with the summer, STEM-VRSE took off in meeting the organization’s stated mission goals. First, the organization supported an early career STEM researcher through the creation of the Morris Schulman, Jr. Scholarship – named for one of the original board members of STEM-VRSE. Second, the organization received 501 (c)(3) recognition from the federal government and completed the registration to act as a non-Profit organization in the state of Texas. Finally, we began uploading 360 content across multiple online media platforms to “get our name out there.” I say all this to get you ready for what came next.

 Jordan on his recent trip to Alaska!

Jordan on his recent trip to Alaska!

 Moses trying out VR for the first time!

Moses trying out VR for the first time!

            The last month, or so, marked another major change in the development of STEM-VRSE as an organization. We began and ended this period with the efforts of our two newest actors to STEM-VRSE, Jordan and Moses. Jordan, our computer programmer, joined the organization in the middle of the summer. His work with the organization began to show in the last month as he worked on linking the organization’s content to people through the internet. In addition, Jordan captured incredible 360 footage of Alaska during a recent trip to the Great Northwest. Moses, our newest intern, joined the organization at the beginning of the fall semester. His work to create Texas A&M University (TAMU) centered content began to show itself as he worked with Dakota to create a 360 experience of the Aggie Bonfire Memorial. Also, Moses worked with us at the last First Friday in downtown Bryan, TX to connect with Spanish speaking members of our community. In between the efforts of these individuals, other people at STEM-VRSE worked hard in pushing the organization. Below, we outline some those people and their efforts to make STEM-VRSE a success in supporting early career STEM researchers and empowering STEM educators.



Where to begin? Cash recently completed the first National Science Foundation (NSF) grant request with the help of the experts at STEM-VRSE. He immediately began writing a second grant for NSF. We believe that Cash will be invaluable in assisting future members of the organization in completing grants to support research. Katja, our fearless Marketing Director, went to Mexico to work on her SCUBA skills. She took some wonderful 360 footage of the reef communities off the Atlantic coast of Mexico. In addition, she spent time in Native American ruins and gathered some additional 360 footage. We hope to soon have content from both activities on our website and VeerTv. Dakota has continued to work with Moses, as mentioned previously, and work toward his Bachelor degree at TAMU and look forward to working a graduate course of study at Boston College University. He also has recently completed a blog on the past and current state of 360 technology, something I encourage everyone to read. Dane has been busy working on the STEM-VRSE Business Plan and assisting the researchers associated with STEM-VRSE. We hope his work on the business plan will attract the funds needed to support the work of STEM-VRSE members in the future. Also, he began work toward recruiting a grant-writer to work with STEM-VRSE on a permanent basis. Keep a lookout in the near future for the addition of another member or two to the organization’s family. Finally, Kat continues to provide leadership as STEM-VRSE’s President. Her tireless efforts in the past few weeks led to the development of a new t-shirt design for a fall fundraiser, generation of a banner for use at organization events, and the continued development of the STEM-VRSE newsletter. She also recently began writing her own NSF grant and found time to build professional connections with two local schools. In doing so, Kat provides evidence that STEM-VRSE does indeed support STEM research and empower STEM education. Keep an eye out for more changes at STEM-VRSE in the coming months. As always, contact us with any questions you might wish to ask someone at the organization. If no one knows the answer, we can likely find the person with the answer.

360° Cameras Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow!

Several years before we started STEM-VRSE, I was wandering around Best Buy when I found two different 360° cameras. These cameras were the Samsung Gear 360 & the 360fly and both ran between $300 and $400. Needless to say, the sticker shock for two spherical cameras that made me just want to throw them in the air was real. I passed on the cameras that day but over the next few months I would see them start showing up around our IT office. Little did I know that these two cameras would spark a level of curiosity in me that would ultimately lead to the start of STEM-VRSE and more importantly meeting the team that has made all of this a possibility. 360° cameras have come a long way over the past few years and today I thought I would dive in and see, not only where we have come from, but where we are headed.

 Samsung Gear 360 (2016) - 360fly

Samsung Gear 360 (2016) - 360fly

The Past

360° images are believed to have begun with the coining of the term “panorama” back in 1787 by English painter, Robert Barker. Barker painted a continuous painting around a circular room so that when you walked in you were completely surrounded. Over time this panoramic painting would evolve into hand crank swing lens in 1843. These were only 150° images but we were slowly evolving. Finally in 1857, Garrela of England designed a camera that would rotate completely to capture a full 360° view.

 From: Bernard Comment: Das Panorama - Robert Mitchell - 1793

From: Bernard Comment: Das Panorama - Robert Mitchell - 1793


Over the next few decades panoramic cameras would rise in popularity, with the most popular camera being the Cirkut, which was developed in 1904 by a company that would go on to be acquired by Kodak. These cameras represented a leap towards where we are today but they were still incredibly large, difficult to handle, and tremendously expensive with most costing more than $1,000 (almost $30,000 in 2018 US dollars) at the time.

 Cirkut Camera - 1905

Cirkut Camera - 1905

Jump all the way to 1958 and we finally got our first 360° film camera, the Japanese Panorax Zia. Additional cameras would come out in 1969, 1979, and in the 80’s panoramic cameras were everywhere on the market.

The Present

So where have all of these panoramic cameras that were heavy and expensive led us to today? Long story short, a whole bunch of cameras that are still expensive but can fit in to our pockets and actually shoot 360° pictures and videos. We now have the capability of shooting 4K video from a small wafer shaped camera like the Ricoh Theta V, live streaming 360° footage to Facebook from the Samsung Gear 360 (2017) that looks like the animated i from Pixar. We can combine two cameras that shoot 235° into 360° with the Kodak PixPro SP360 4K, and we can throw our 360° camera down a mountain with the Garmin VIRB 360. All of these cameras represent the current market for 360° cameras. Over the last few years cameras have gotten smaller, cheaper, and better in quality. However, while the cameras are slowly getting better, the software for editing the content they produce is still slow to catch up. In my several years of using the average consumer cameras, I have grown tired of buggy software that lacks function and usability. However, all hope is not lost. Adobe recently added 360° editing features to Premiere and After Effects, and with an ever increasing number of companies entering the field, the potential for quality software continues to increase.

 Ricoh Theta V - Samsung Gear 360(2017) - Garmin Virb

Ricoh Theta V - Samsung Gear 360(2017) - Garmin Virb

The Future

If we take a step away from the “affordable” cameras in the under a $1000 area, and look towards the more premium line, the future of the industry looks even brighter! For a long time GoPro was the go to for high quality and expensive 360° photos and video. Their Omni Rig runs a cool $5,000 but has recently dropped in price due to other companies entering the market.

 GoPro Omni Rig

GoPro Omni Rig


One of those cameras is Insta360. Insta360 has created cameras that cost $200, Insta 360 Nano, and plug into your phone and have also created $5,000 cameras that you would struggle to find a feature they didn’t have. They are working hard to bridge both the hardware and the software gap between your average consumer cameras and the professional versions. I for one am looking forward to the opportunity to work with the Insta360 Pro 2! I expect that the technology found in the Pro camera and the technology that will come out in the next few years will trickle its’ way down into affordable cameras for all of us. Here at STEM-VRSE we are working everyday to get our hands on the newest technology out there so that we can continue to improve our content and spread it to the education system!

 Insta360 Pro 2

Insta360 Pro 2

Meet Jordan Murphy!

We're so excited for you to finally meet one of our researchers and our incredible software engineer, Jordan! He's currently hard at work creating an app for STEM-VRSE, which we're eager to share with the community! He also recorded our Glacier Bay VR video during his time in Alaska! Read below to learn more about him!

What is your name?

Jordan Murphy

What did you study in school and what do you wish to do in the future?

I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. I am going to work as a software engineer to write software systems for spacecraft, aircraft, self-driving cars, or robotics.

 What drove you to join STEM-VRSE?

I want to be a part to the movement that is getting kids and young adults excited about careers in STEM.

What do you want to learn while working with STEM-VRSE?

I want to learn how to be a better software engineer.

What kind of science interests you the most?

I really truly love all kinds of science. But if I had to pick, I would say science that has to do with outer space makes me the most excited. I think looking up at the sky at night, watching the stars, and learning about space travel and exploration makes me feel most passionate.

If you could be in any movie, what movie would you want to be in and what character would you play?

I would choose to be in a nature/hiking/mountain-climbing documentary. I love nature and being outside. I would love to be a part of something that highlights the beauty and wonder of nature.

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant, what skill would you want it to be?

Speaking Chinese fluently. Whew! It’s a lot to learn and I would love to skip all the hard parts and just magically be fluent! Hahaha

Meet Katherine Crabill!

We wanted to finally give you a formal (but still enjoyably informal) introduction to our President, Kat! Lately she's been working on her research involving 360° cameras in the reefs of New Zealand's Poor Knights Island! Read below to find out more about her!


What is your name?

Katherine Crabill, aka Kat, aka Hey You.

What did you study in school and what do you wish to do in the future?

I studied Geology as an undergraduate and then Oceanography for my master’s. I would like to be a quite well-off beach bum in the tropics somewhere.

What drove you to join STEM-VRSE?

I was tricked! I was voted in by the other two members, Dane and Dakota. The reason was probably due to my passion to share science with the public and to get kids excited about the idea of doing research.

What do you want to learn while working with STEM-VRSE?

I want to learn how to lead an exceptional team of driven researchers. I want to learn how to establish a successful non-profit. I want to learn how to operate and maintain a successful non-profit. The list goes on.

What kind of science interests you the most?

Physical science is where my heart lies. I love being able to look at features in the natural world, mountains, valleys and lakes, and know how they came into existence.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would you tell her?

It works out. Take chances, it turns into a crazy fun adventure. P.S. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

If one animal was made the size of an elephant, what would be the scariest?

A chicken. Have you ever come face-to-face with a chicken? They peck, scratch and terrorize everything and everyone. Also, since they are birds, they are a living relative to dinosaurs. So pretty much the scariest elephant-sized animal would be chickens, aka elephant-sized crazed dinosaurs.

Where Did we Start

Kat and Katja spoke with people on the radio last Friday evening. One of the questions asked, "Where did this all begin?" allowed us the opportunity to revisit some memories. Below, we provide the first paper written together by Dakota and Dane. This paper served as a framework for how STEM-VRSE would be created, developed, and managed. Enjoy!


A Model for Research Groups in the 21st Century: Meeting the Call for Including Undergraduate Students in Education Research

Scholars in higher education agree on the importance of research experiences for graduate students (Gilmore, Vierya, Timmerman, Feldon, & Maher, 2015; Mabrouk, 2016; National Academy of Science [NAS], 2007a, 2007b; President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2012). They contend research experiences increase the likelihood of these students’ retention, graduation, and introduction into the academy (Feldon, Timmerman, Stowe, & Showman, 2010; Menella, 2015). Thus, prior models of faculty-led research groups focused around the mentoring relationship between faculty and graduate students (Allen, 2007).

The Importance of Undergraduate Research

            Mennella (2015) identifies participation in research as an important experience for undergraduate students. Specifically, Mennella asserts participation by undergraduate students in research leads to four positive outcomes: (a) heightened personal satisfaction, (b), improved content and professional learning (c), increased likelihood for retention, and (d) preparedness for graduate school and/or work environment. These positive outcomes are offset by several inhibiting factors, including: (a) student maturity, (b) professor commitment, (c) time requirements, and (d) the nature of scientific research (Mabrouk, 2016; Manak & Young, 2014; Menella, 2015). Thus, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has supported undergraduate research through programs such as the Research Experience for Undergraduates (Houser, Cahill, & Lemmons, 2014; REU). Manak and Young (2014), however, note that students majoring in human cognition fields (e.g. Education) remain underrepresented in both these programs and research groups in general.

The Need for a New Model of Undergraduate Research

The apprenticeship model (see Figure 1), a common example of mentoring, provides graduate students’ opportunities for professional development and socialization within the academy (Salsman, Dulaney, Chinta, Zascawage, & Joshi, 2013). This model strengthens the development of graduate researchers in the mold of professorial researchers. However, with calls for increased involvement of undergraduate students in research (Awong-Taylor, D’Costa, Giles, Leader, Pursell, Runck, & Mundie, 2016; Baker, Pifer, Lunsford, Greer, Ihas, 2015; Gilmore, Vierya, Timmerman, Feldon, & Maher, 2015), a new model for research groups in the 21st century requires professors (i.e., experts) to work with both graduate (i.e., novice-experts) and undergraduate students (i.e., novices). A review of literature reveals little understanding on the introduction of multiple knowledge and skill levels in 21st century research groups (Baker, Pifer, Lunsford, Greer, Ihas, 2015), with most of the literature focused on the perspectives of graduate or undergraduate students (Crisp & Cruz, 2009). The current study describes how faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students work together to conduct research in higher education settings and how that work influenced their understanding of research and group work.

Illustration of common mentor-mentee relationship.png

Figure 1. Illustration of the common mentor-mentee relationship.


Distributed Expertise in a New Model for Undergraduate Research

Distributed expertise, also known as distributed cognition, describes the way individuals work in groups to complete complex tasks (Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, Viilo, & Hakkarainen, 2010; Swallow et al, 2015; Williamson & Cox, 2014). Through distributed expertise, individuals within groups possess expert knowledge on some topic required to complete complex tasks as their work adds to the collective knowledge for all individuals within groups (Williamson & Cox, 2014). In developing a new model for undergraduate research, expert researchers should consider drawing on the knowledge of both novice-expert and novice researchers. In doing so, all individuals within  research groups share in the ownership of completed and complex tasks.

Theoretical Framework

This study draws on literature related to the mentoring relationship developed between professors and graduate and/or undergraduate students. Palmer, Hunt, Neal, and Wuetherick (2015) describe the “considerable literature of mentoring relationships in higher education” and point out that much of this literature builds on a mentor-mentee model used to address learning outcomes for mentored students in replicating the desired attributes of the mentor (Crisp & Cruz, 2009; Jacobi, 1991; Schunk & Usher, 2013). In addition, prior research on faculty mentorship of graduate and undergraduate students in research groups has identified multiple supporting and inhibiting factors. Supporting factors include (a) supportive culture, (b) varied opportunities,    (c) personal research agendas, and (d) financial incentives. In contrast, inhibiting factors include (a) time, (b) inflexibility in funding, and (c) recognition (Baker, Pifer, Lunsford, Greer, Ihas, 2015; see Figure 2).

The apprenticeship model allows researchers to describe research groups composed of either experts and novice experts or experts and novices conducting research in narrow content fields. This model, thus, often contains at least one of the following assumptions: (a) professors, as experts, possess most of the critical knowledge required for completing the research program and/or (b) students, as expert novices or novices, within the research group wish to emulate faculty (Baker, Pifer, Lunsford, Greer, Ihas, 2015).


Illustration of common research model.jpg

Figure 2. Illustration of common research model identifeable by both faculty and students with students mimicing the academic success of faculty and faculty achieving personal success (e.g., completing a grant for future research).


The 21st century model for research groups likely (a) contains experts, novice-experts, and novices; (b) requires all members to perform multiple roles; (c) incorporates novice-experts and novices with critical knowledge, and; (d) encompasses multiple content fields. Our model for research groups, the Distributive Expertise Research Model (DERM), relies less on traditional mentoring and more on distributing layers of expertise through members’ roles (Torre, Vlueten, & Dolmans, 2016; see Figure 3). Our study uses the perspective of a-hierarchical group membership. This perspective does not begin with the assumption that experts possess most of the critical information required for completing the research program. In addition, this perspective assumes novice-experts and novices own their positions and expertise within the research group (see Figure 4). Thus, these individuals do not necessarily possess the desire to emulate the expert. To address the need for a 21st mode for research groups, the authors of this paper consider the following research questions:

·       Research Question 1: What expert skills are necessary in a research group for the 21st century?

·       Research Question 2: How do graduate and undergraduate students percieve their influence on research?


Methods and Procedures

Building on the concept of scaffolded reflection (Howitt & Wilson, 2016), our study contains results from a case study about a research group consisting of one university professor working in partnership with both graduate and undergraduate students. As a research group, we came together during the first year of a research program to study the role of virtual reality (VR) in STEM learning environments. This program was instituted at a large research university in the southwest region of the US. The first year of the program centered on solving two problems associated with research: (a) developing a research group and (b) acquiring resources to support members of the group and the program. Artifacts for our case study included biographical background information, notes from personal journals, emails and texts, and video taken during meetings. We conducted reflective analyses to identify themes specific within and across each artifact class specific to members of the research group.


Illustration of distributed expertise.jpg

Figure 3. Illustration of the Distributed Expertise Research Model (DERM) used to generate an National Science Foundation grant.


The Experts

            To describe the DERM, we used individuals self-identifying as experts in one or more content areas important to the development of a research group and the completion of research. This section contains biographies about these experts. In creating the biographies, the experts focus on three issues related to their involvement in the DERM group; (a) personal background, (b) lived experiences important to the development of their expert status, and (c) the expert knowledge provided to other members within the research group.

            The University Professor. Dr. Bozeman is an adjunct professor in the College of Education at a large university situated in the southwest region of the US. He completed his BS in Biology at a small private college emphasizing liberal education and teaching. Subsequently, he completed graduate coursework and research in the fields of Biology, Chemistry, Education, and Statistics at small regional colleges emphasizing teaching and large Tier 1 universities emphasizing research. Ultimately, he completed his doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction at a large university. While completing his terminal degree he worked with a group of teachers conducting research on science education policy on both the state and local levels of government. In completing his degrees, Dr. Bozeman gained experience conducting research on Parkinsonian disorders, human immunodeficiency, waste water management, electrochemical reactions, and science education policy.

Dr. Bozeman possesses 23 years of experience as an educator in STEM education at the secondary and tertiary levels. He taught secondary science and mathematics for four years in a private school while completing work towards his MS in Biology. Before completing his thesis, Dr. Bozeman accepted a teaching position at a public secondary school located in a rural area close to a large university. He taught secondary science for three years in two public schools while completing coursework and research towards MS degrees in Statistics and Science Education. Eventually, Dr. Bozeman moved to a second city and taught courses in chemistry, statistics and research design at a large university for six years as he completed coursework and research towards the PhD in Curriculum and Instruction.

As a graduate student working on his doctorate, Dr. Bozeman participated in an NSF research program designed to support the development of experts in STEM education and policy, as well as, Education research methods. Since completing his PhD, he (a) worked in the private sector to help graduate students’ complete coursework and research towards the PhD and         (b) taught graduate courses in statistics and research design at a large university in the southwest region of the US. Thus, Dr. Bozeman is generally considered by other members in the research group to be an expert in conducting research in the field of Education. More specifically, he brings expertise in human cognition, survey design, and statistics.

Master’s Student in Education. Johanna is a graduate student in the College of Education at a large university in the southwest region of the US. From this same university, she received a BS in Civil Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. During her undergraduate career she used the knowledge and resources gained as a student in contributing to a student service organization focused on water-related engineering projects. After her first semester as an undergraduate, she took on leadership roles (e.g. overseeing internal affairs, coordinating events, etc.) in this organization. In her classes and extra-curricular activities, she took interest in the social dimension of STEM education; specifically, (a) how people learn STEM content, (b) the role of collaboration and communication in STEM research, and (c) influence of culture in STEM projects. These examples, underlying the social dimension of STEM education, motivated her to pursue a Master’s degree in Education. Upon completion of her degree, she plans to teach secondary mathematics and physics before returning to university and completing her PhD.

Johanna worked as an undergraduate researcher in the College of Engineering for three years. The primary focus of her research centered on structural engineering. As such, she was part of a research group comprised of a university professor and students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in Civil Engineering. This experience provided her with an introduction to the research culture in the academy; however, this experience failed to provide her with a holistic understanding of how elements of research resulted in the generation of new knowledge.

Johanna possesses experience as a STEM student (i.e., Engineering) in a large, public university.  In addition, she exhibits deep understanding of organizational and personal skills developed from planning events and managing groups as a student-leader. Finally, she believes many of the skills (i.e. data acquisition and analysis) she gained while participating in research for her B.S. in Engineering transfers into other fields of research. Johanna brings the following expertise into the current research group: recent undergraduate experience in STEM. 

The Undergraduate Student in Psychology. Marcus is an undergraduate student studying Psychology at a large, public university in the southwest region of the US. In the future, he plans to attend Law school and work in the area of corporate law. Prior to attending his current university, Marcus attended and graduated from one of the high schools in which the research group anticipates studying. Thus, he possesses deep knowledge of the students, faculty, and institutional culture of the school.

As an undergraduate, Marcus possesses experience from conducting research with one of the graduate students within the current group. Specifically, he helped to establish the fundamental statistics in their research and assisted in data collection. He exhibits an interest in the use of statistics and application of software (i.e., SPSS) in the analysis of data associated with social science research. This interest developed because of coursework in his degree program. Also, as an undergraduate student, he developed skills in conducting reviews of literature and academic writing.

Marcus possesses expertise regarding the people and school for which the current group wishes to study. He also understands the importance of statistics in the analysis of data and the development of instruments for psychometric measurements. In addition, he expresses interest in this research as he believes a better understanding of academia for high school students can lead to the furthering of their secondary education. Marcus brings the following expertise into the current research group: data analysis, social ties, academic writing skills, and knowledge of statistical packages.

The Undergraduate Student in Technology. Dakota is a sophomore majoring in Technology Management within the College of Education at a large university in the southwest region of the US. He started and finished his high school education with the intent of attending the university he currently attends. Due to his focus, he centered his activities and education as a high school student to help facilitate a successful matriculation from secondary to tertiary schools. For example, as a student in high school he accepted leadership roles within (a) student government, (b) group projects, and (c) mentoring programs.

He possesses expertise derived largely from work on personal projects using 21st century technologies. Many of these projects have expanded into group (i.e. ) or commerce based projects. In his second year of high school, for example, he began learning web development for personal enjoyment. Since learning web development strategies, he has developed sites for a variety of clients, including; artists, family members, and community organizations. Since graduating from high school, he has worked as a video production assistant at his university, studied cybersecurity, and worked on multiple technology-based projects (i.e. podcasts and classroom technology). His recent experiences have allowed him to develop a unique knowledge in the initial use of technology for growing projects. 

As an undergraduate student in a technology field, Alexander brings a developing expertise on the use of technology educational applications. His work on several distance projects with clients, allows him to provide expertise on methods of communication and research facilitation through web based platforms and 21st century technologies. In addition, he possesses expertise on technology trends and hardware development for research. Overall, he is considered by other members in the research group to be a expert in the use of technology to cultivate the research environment and allow for the research to carried out without guesswork in regards to the technology.

The Data

            The members of the research group generated multiple data streams in working to complete the NSF grant. In this section, we describe the following data streams: (a) email, (b) text messages, (c) meeting notes, and (d) website.

            Email. All group members made use of email communication. The examples in Appendix A provide evidence of members’ use of email. All members of the group used the university’s email system to connect and remain in contact during the semester. The members of the group generated over 50 emails during the course of the semester.

            Text Messages. All group members made use of text messages. The examples in Appendix B provide evidence of members’ use of text messages. Members of the group used personal telephones to connect and remain in contact during the semester. The members generated over 100 text messages during the course of the semester.

            Meeting Notes. All members received a standardized weekly summary of meeting notes. The example in Appendix C provides evidence of the meeting notes members received. Meeting notes were created by Dr. Bozeman and shared with the members of the group at the beginning of weekly meetings. Dr. Bozeman generated 10 meeting notes during the course of the semester.

Website. All members reviewed the STEM-VRSE website and were allowed to offer opinions on the development of the site. Members of the group worked together in improving the website during the course of the semester.

The Analysis

Members of the DERM group reviewed the data streams in a reflective manner to identify benefits and opportunities from participation in the group. In reviewing the data streams, the group reached four conclusions about the data streams: (a) email served as a method for maintaining group direction, (b) text messages provided opportunities to combine both professional and personal interactions, (c) meeting notes acted as a blueprint for current and future activities by members and the group, and (d) the website exhibited evidence of work completed on the grant application and future research goals. In this section, we describe our experiences as members of the DERM group.

Master’s Student in Education. Johanna grew as an expert because of her access to the distributed expertise of the research group. The construction of the group as an assembly of experts rather than one expert leading several pupils created a culture in which she felt encouraged to ask questions. Even when these questions caused the discussion to diverge from the main point, she observed that those discussions were valued as a learning experience for everyone in the group. During these discussions she began to gain a comprehensive understanding of the research process. Specifically, she learned about the importance of defining research questions, conducting a review, selecting target variables and survey instruments, applying for approval through the university, and completing grants.

The expertise of individuals in the group was an additional source of information for Johanna. For example, she drew from Dane’s expertise to improve her writing. In addition, she drew from Dakota’s expertise to better understand the value and use of website creation and technology. As a result, she drew upon not only from the expertise of the group as a whole, but also the expertise of the individuals within the group.   

In addition to her growth from the expertise of other individual within the group, Johanna experienced growth from her leadership roles in the group. Her primary contribution was generating figures to explain models generated by the group. The group discussed the primary components of these models and how to illustrate components. She then drafted several figures for each model to share with the group at the next meeting. Throughout the first drafting process she collaborated with Luke to discuss how geometric shapes could be used to illustrate the a-hierarchical quality of the DERM group. Various drafts were created and discussed during group meetings until production of the final figures. During this process, she learned how components of a picture can have significant and sometimes different meanings to different people.

Johanna also had the experience of sharing her expertise and leading a discussion regarding graduate funding opportunities. The purpose of this discussion was to inform the undergraduates in the group about the graduate experience. Where her expertise ended Luke and Dane stepped in to fill in the gaps. Having her start the discussion with two more knowledgeable experts in the group had two outcomes. First, because she took the lead in the group, she had the opportunity to practice organizing her thoughts in a cohesive manner to the group. Second, her led discussion to the group illuminated the gaps in her understanding of the subject (i.e., the graduate experience). In doing so, the two more experienced experts (i.e. Luke and Dane) took the role of filling in gaps generated by her lack of knowledge or understanding. In addition, this allowed her to improve her own understanding of the graduate experience.

The Undergraduate Student in Psychology. After actively seeking out this research group I can say that I have gained skills and resources that I otherwise would not have had. I brought in a critical eye and poked holes in everything that I could, which comes natural to me, but the group challenged me to patch those holes after I poked them. I gained a number of contacts that will be helpful to me in the future when applying to Law School. Working with this group has also expanded my working knowledge of undergraduate research in general but not in the normal sense; instead of just being given a task and a completion date I was able to provide valuable input and be heard. All group members were treated equally as colleagues and not with some as leader figures while others were subordinates. Each member’s talents were utilized to the utmost of their capabilities and when someone was considered to be more of an expert they stepped up. This process allowed each researcher to grow and maintained a high level of productivity.

The Undergraduate Student in Technology. Howdy, my name is Dakota Brown. I am a sophomore at Texas A&M University and currently on a semester long study abroad trip to New Zealand. How I got here is relatively simple, I wanted to travel. I wanted to experience and define my own adventure. However, long before I left, the adventure started to gain traction in other directions. That direction would be towards research in human cognition. About a year before I arrived here, I had my first introduction to research and little did I know it would come to consume the remainder of the year.

            In early 2016, I worked as a technology student worker for the College of Education. Over time I got to know the people in the building and ultimately noticed someone using a virtual reality headset. As I had the same headset, this led to an introduction and a conversation on a research idea. This person was Dr. Bozeman and for several weeks we played with the technology, bouncing ideas back and forth. Ultimately, he introduced me to an idea he had been processing for several years. This idea became STEM-VRSE.

            Suddenly, this technology that had captivated myself and Dr. Bozeman became an opportunity. For myself, it was the opportunity I had been looking for and could have never seen coming. I had spent months changing my career path, adding, and dropping minors, and in general being stressed over the question of what I was going to do for the rest of my life. After all, choosing one thing had never worked in the past for me and now I was running out of options. So, I gave it a chance. I spent the next semester in this research group as a novice learning the basics of research. All of this to understand the traditional model of research and our proposed distributed expertise research model, all without any prior experience.  

            With all that in mind, we now come back to where I am today. Yes, I am on an island but I am also pursuing a Ph.D., actively working on both the DERM Model and STEMVRSE research, and working towards my first published paper. I could have remained on my path towards a degree in Technology Management and Cybersecurity, and while it remains an aspect, it is but simply a stepping stone to what I hope to accomplish. I had an opportunity to be a part of something and I took it. That decision led to a life altering experience. Of course, my story is but one example of what has and could happen to others. The question is how do we give that opportunity to other students and how do we do so in a way these students choose to remain. That is where the DERM model and STEM-VRSE come into play.

The DERM model allowed me to play a pivotal role in the research group. I went through the process of designing and redesigning a website adjusting the purpose and scope as I gained more knowledge. I then had to present the site in front of the group as the expert on the content. Without anyone standing over me I could adjust and modify the site as needed based on the groups and my own criticism, rather than simply being delivered a list of changes to make. Nearly a year later, and the website is on an entirely different level of quality and professionalism with compliments coming from members of the subject field and in web design. I can recall my thought process when designing then and look at it now and identify the differences in the process that have led to my gained expertise. While web design is the most prominent example, it is not the only one. Due to my increased role and the reliance placed on me by group members, I was forced to adapt and learn. This has shown in my writing, operations management, and even in my studies. This model has augmented my ability and desire to learn in a manner that traditional classes and research could not do.


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Figure 4. Illustration of DERM describing both faculty and students expert input in the success of research outcome (e.g., completing a grant for conducting research).


Results and Conclusions

Our analyses of notes, emails, texts, and video, indicate the classical model of mentorship may not apply for research groups in the 21st century. For example, in our case study, the faculty member worked as an adjunct member at the university in which all group members attended. The faculty member is a former STEM teacher interested in the inclusion of Virtual Reality (VR) within secondary schools. The doctoral member has prior experience teaching in secondary schools and higher education, conducting research, and leading undergraduate researchers within the content field of STEM education. In addition, he is conducting his thesis research on learning progressions, but views our study as an opportunity to develop collaborative connections for future research. Finally, our undergraduate members do not major in the field of Education, but are interested in differing content fields (i.e., Technology Management, Engineering, and Psychology) associated with the research program. In addition, one of these undergraduate members views the research as an opportunity to make contacts in the business world and as a possible source of income.

Educational or Scientific Importance

            Our study describes an a-hierarchical model for research groups in the 21st century exhibiting distributive expertise for all members. The apprenticeship model worked in higher education when faculty members were the primary source of knowledge and financial support for graduate students wishing to emulate their faculty mentors. With the call for greater involvement of undergraduate students in research, the apprenticeship model for describing research groups in higher education no longer applies. As a result, a need exists in higher education to consider and implement new models for research groups in the 21st century. We believe the DERM model meets this need.

Under the Sea with Aggieland Scuba

During January of 2018, we began working with Aggieland Scuba to prepare for the research trip to New Zealand. With Aggieland Scuba, Kat and Clint took the opportunity to refresh their own scuba skills. In addition, Dakota began to spread his proverbial wings and Katja faced her fear of water. All in all, Aggieland Scuba's help in January set us up for our current successes.

 Kat and Dakota sharing a meal at CJ's BBQ before the Aggieland Scuba meeting

Kat and Dakota sharing a meal at CJ's BBQ before the Aggieland Scuba meeting

In the early part of May we returned to Aggieland Scuba to share some of what we learned while in New Zealand. In doing so, we had a chance to reflect on the last few months. But before we go there, we wish to thank Aggieland Scuba. Your assistance made our work in New Zealand possible.

 Kat preparing to speak with the Aggieland Scuba group

Kat preparing to speak with the Aggieland Scuba group


As an organization, since we first met the people at Aggieland Scuba in January of 2018, we achieved 501(c)(3) status, presented information at multiple community events, visited with researchers at NASA wishing to introduce VR into their work, began development of curriculum for use in primary and secondary schools, and began working with schools to train STEM teachers in the use of VR. Taken together, the events speak to the dedication of the STEM-VRSE members. But these events also reflect how our world dramatically changed in just a few short months when we said goodbye to some friends and then returned.



Meet Amber Miles!

You may have seen her in some of the recent meeting livestreams, but we wanted to introduce you finally! Amber Miles is our new writing consultant! She's here to help us with our research papers and grant writing and we're so excited to have her on board and introduce her to everyone!

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What is your name?

Reginald Winklhaus III or if you’re going by my street name it’s Amber Miles.

What did you study in school and what do you wish to do in the future?

I studied English and Film. One day it would be nice to entertain the masses with some witty words in the form of a film or a novel.

What drove you to STEM-VRSE?

Dane’s desperation…just kidding! STEM-VRSE teeters on the edge of some incredibly exciting adventures. I wanted to be part of the perpetual motion machine and help propel STEM-VRSE into the future while helping to create a lasting legacy for VR integration in education and research.

What do you want to learn while working with STEM-VRSE?

I would like to come away with a better knowledge of other people’s writing processes so I can learn more about my own abilities and skills. I will be working closely with different people, and want to take away as much knowledge as I can while I am with STEM-VRSE.

What kind of science or literature interests you the most?

SPACE! THE FINAL FRONTIER! All jokes aside, the expansive nothingness and somethingness of space both terrifies and intrigues me.

In literature, I am a purveyor of both critical and garbage works. Which means I love novels that no one cares about that they make you read in school, but I can also read a 150,000 word fanfic in one sitting and still crave more.

If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

In the middle of nowhere Scotland, atop a hill, miles from the nearest person, in a house that was built in the late 1700’s, and is not haunted. But also contains every modern convenience, and the best internet money can afford. I already have the house picked out, I just need £1.6 Million.

If you could get a chance to rewrite any famous work of fiction, which one would you choose to do over?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but only to change those awful names of Harry’s children. Yeesh.

STEM-VRSE's first First Friday

Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society of London and editor of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, worked most of his adult life to open communication between STEM researchers and create a space for these researchers to share, argue over, and reach consensus on issues impacting the larger society. Before the 17th century, many STEM researchers likely used codes and symbols within notebooks and research notes to conceal knowledge from potential rivals - a possibility lost on many lovers of Dan Brown's books. As a result of Henry Oldenburg's work, many researchers studying the development of STEM research hold that the first example of peer review occurred in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Articles in the first issue of Philosophical Transactions (http://rstl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/1/1.toc), published May 30, 1665, covered a range of topics, including: Astrology, Biology, Chemistry, Geology, and Mathematics. For example, this issue presented one of the first discussions on Jupiter's Great Red Spot and a brief eulogy of Pierre de Fermat. Whatever anyone may think of Oldenburg, his work likely changed the world. But, what if he chose to stay home? What if he recused himself from society and kept all his knowledge to himself? What if he attempted to remove the potential of criticism from his life? Would our world still resemble the late middle ages? Likely not, but would our world look the same as we see it today?

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On April 6, 2018, STEM-VRSE presented itself to the public for review. At First Friday in downtown Bryan, TX we shared our recent work in New Zealand with the citizens of the Brazos Valley. In doing so, we made valuable connections with local researchers and educators. We recognize the importance of this step and the potential development and criticism to which we open ourselves. But what would our world look like if we stayed home on Friday? How do we develop if we did not open ourselves to criticism? Will STEM-VRSE change the world? Who knows, but we no longer stay home. Welcome to STEM-VRSE. A space using 360° and virtual reality technologies for supporting STEM research and promoting education.

 The STEM-VRSE team prepares to share work with people in the Brazos Valley in downtown Bryan at First Friday in April 2018. (Pictured from left to right at table: Unknown Valley resident, Kat Crabill [STEM-VRSE President], Katherine Wierzbicki [STEM-VRSE Treasurer], Elizabeth Espey [STEM-VRSE Intern], and Katja Pierce [STEM-VRSE Director of Marketing])

The STEM-VRSE team prepares to share work with people in the Brazos Valley in downtown Bryan at First Friday in April 2018. (Pictured from left to right at table: Unknown Valley resident, Kat Crabill [STEM-VRSE President], Katherine Wierzbicki [STEM-VRSE Treasurer], Elizabeth Espey [STEM-VRSE Intern], and Katja Pierce [STEM-VRSE Director of Marketing])

 He was so amazed, he nearly fell over on a number of occasions.

He was so amazed, he nearly fell over on a number of occasions.

Virtual Cognition, Anyone, Anyone?

Someone recently asked us how we envisioned the use of virtual reality (VR) and 360 technologies in education. This query made us realize how little everyone actually "knows" about the potential impact of these technologies on education. What does virtual cognition (VC) look like? How will these technologies influence future stakeholders in education? To better understand how VR and 360 technologies will influence education in the future, we must first look to the past. Especially in terms of human cognition, as this particular field of study holds many potential elements to influence the integration of VR and 360 technologies in education.

Benjamin Bloom's three learning domains - Affective, Cognitive, and Psycho-motor - allowed cognitive scientists to qualify relationships between individuals' actions and thought processes. Simply put, people learn through emotions, critical thought, and movement. In addition to Bloom, Albert Bandura's Socio-cognitive theories provided scientists an understanding of the importance that self-efficacy plays in peoples' lives. In other words, we learn collectively, not as individuals alone on an island. Finally, John Flavell's work on meta-cognition allowed us to realize the importance of thinking about how we think. This suggests that gaining knowledge should not be the only consideration, we should also consider how we learned knowledge.

VR and 360 in Multiple Domains

The use of virtual reality (VR) and 360 technologies in education reflects a step forward in learners' cognitive development. These technologies allow all learners to actively participate across all three learning domains. How, you might ask? If you experience these technologies you will not need to ask. The immersive nature of these technologies provides learners with the ability to lose themselves in learning content. With VR and 360, learners use emotional connections - such as the feeling you might experience in watching a sting-ray float past you while "diving off the coast of New Zealand - critical thought - such as listening to a NASA engineer discuss work on the extraction of oxygen from rocks - and movement - such as learning to reach out to "grab" a lifeline while lost in outer space within a VR experience that does not exist in reality. At STEM-VRSE, we believe that VR and 360 technologies in future educational environments will provide learners with opportunities to not only learn, but to also simultaneously assist learners' cognitive development across multiple learning domains.

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VR and 360 in Socio-Cognition

VR and 360 technologies provides learners with unique opportunities in developing learners as productive members of society. These technologies create stable learning environments in the sense that content creators determine the social structure of learning for people using the technologies. Although on the surface this may seem to reduce self-efficacy, the use of these technologies will allow learners to become the content creators of their own learning. As a result, we believe VR and 360 technologies offer stakeholders in education with unique opportunities to not only promote learners' self-efficacy but to impact their understanding that with great knowledge comes great responsibility.



VR and 360 in Metacognition

VR and 360 technologies allows educators to show learners the complexity of learning. These technologies provide immersive experiences forcing learners to reflect on what they learn. Although this skirts a self-efficacy issue, these technologies drive the point to learners that how you see the world and how you learn are just as important as what you see and what you learn. In our work at STEM-VRSE, we encourage researchers and educators alike to think about how these technologies influence how they conduct their research or teaching. Why? Because how they conduct their work will influence how learners will think about creating the next world.



The influence of VC and associated technologies will influence future learners, of this there is little doubt. How we use VC to integrate technology and our knowledge of human cognition in creating learning environments has yet to be determined. We believe groups like STEM-VRSE are at the forefront of answering that question.

Why do We Support Research(ers)

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The recent death of Stephen Hawking initiated many discussions between members of STEM-VRSE. In these discussions, the concepts of what research and researchers "are" became repetitive points for discussion. Unfortunately, many pundits have pontificated on his accomplishments in spite of his physical state and not on his life as a member of the human race. Stephen was more than a person in a wheelchair and mechanical voice, he was a researcher.

Archimedes, Zhang Heng, Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Kwarizmi, Al-Dinawari, Shen Kuo, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrodinger, Richard Feynman, Peter Higgs, Charles Kao, and Stephen Hawking. Who are these people? STEM researchers. Each of these individuals are recognized as great researchers in their respective fields. Many of these names will no doubt be known to you, others less so, but they all share two common traits: the human condition and a desire to understand the complex system we recognize as reality. 

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STEM researchers develop intimate relationships with failure. Researchers, are by the their nature, risk-takers and gamblers. We take the risk of creating potentially erroneous theories to explain the nature of our universe. In addition, we often gamble with years of our lives, interpersonal relationships, and personal gains to answer those questions that many others find little of no consequence. At the end of the day, researchers are fallible organisms trying to understand the unfathomably complex system we all recognize as reality.

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Recently, two researchers supported by STEM-VRSE applied for National Geographic grants to conduct research in their respective fields. Neither of these grants resulted in external funding; regardless, both researchers carried out their respective research. Why? Because they exhibit the human condition and a desire to understand the complex system known as reality. Why does STEM-VRSE exist? We believe that the work of all researchers enrich the lives of all organisms within our shared reality. Each of these two researchers must now take their place on the long grey line of other researchers with the two common traits and begin their intimate relationship with failure. STEM-VRSE exists to ensure these researchers do not face that relationship alone.

Data VS Information

Data and information are two words often used interchangeably by people, creating confusion. Data refers to knowledge in a form for analysis. Furthermore, raw data represents a collection of knowledge existing in a state before analysis by researchers. Information, however, refers to knowledge resulting from the analysis conducted by researchers. 


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People often argue over STEM related concepts (e.g., the influence of humanity on global warming, evolution through natural selection, or harm caused by artificial intelligence) from a position of confusion - presenting data as information or information as data. Take the influence of humanity on global warming as an example. Little logic emerges if you believe the planet remains in some static state, regardless of actions taken by the planet's inhabitants. The question is not, "does humanity influence global warming?", but rather, "by what processes does humanity influence global warming?"

STEM-VRSE believes one way to reduce confusion surrounding STEM related concepts rests on "reliable" data and "good" information. Currently, we are developing a video library to contain the data collected by researchers associated with STEM-VRSE. This library will contain all the data gathered by our researchers. This library will also provide STEM-VRSE with the opportunity to ensure our researchers can produce, archive, and study "reliable" data. In the future, we hope to make this library available to other researchers, as well as individuals within formal and informal learning environments.

Additionally, we are developing a database to archive all analyses associated with videos within the video library. This database will contain the results of analyses conducted by our researchers. As with the video library, we will make this database available to other researchers, as well as individuals within formal and informal learning environments. Understanding the roles and differences between data and information reflect important concpets for better understanding the world we all live in and share.

Meet Dakota Brown!

Time for another Spotlight! This week we'll be featuring Dakota Brown, one of our researchers, co-founders, and our Vice President! 


What is your name?

Dakota Brown

 What are you studying in school and what do you wish to do in the future?

I study education and technology. I plan to continue studying this with an increased focus on cognition and how people learn.

 What inspired you to start STEM-VRSE?

STEM-VRSE has seen several iterations throughout the last two years, from a simple research project to the non-profit research initiative we have today. Dane and I had been sitting on the idea for some time after our initial efforts and were waiting for the right moment to start it back up again. That moment came when we met Katherine and ultimately Katja. Together and with their expertise, STEM-VRSE is bound to become something that neither Dane nor I could have expected.

 What do you want to learn while working with STEM-VRSE?

The easiest answer here is to keep learning the research process. Of course, in addition to that, I wish to continue gaining business experience and developing myself as a person.

 What research interests you the most?

Meta-cognition is my current research interest. It has taken time for me to reach this point. I started with the question of “how people learn?”. From there it became “why people learn?”. This continued for some time through as I gained an understanding of the field and eventually reached the question I now have, “why people think about what they're thinking?”.

 If you woke up tomorrow as a non-human animal, what animal would you want to be and why?

An owl. I can sleep whenever I want and hang out in trees. I don’t really have to worry about anything attacking me. I rotate my head all the way around and freak out all the humans staring at me. I sit on people’s roofs and annoy everyone with my hooting. Yea…. I’d be an owl.

What is your cheesiest pick-up line?

 I don’t really have a pickup line. I just tend to approach the person and start talking to them. I’m genuine, and they either quickly tell me that I should take off, or we hit it off. Otherwise, I’d like to spare you my cheesiness.


Meet Dane Bozeman!

It's time for another Spotlight! This week we'll be featuring Dr. Dane Bozeman, our co-founder and secretary (and personal chef sometimes)! In case you're wondering, the picture he chose to be featured is him from Halloween 2017 where he's dressed as Uncle Fester from The Addams Family! We decided to feature him this week because it was his birthday this past Wednesday! Happy birthday, Dane! 


What is your name?

Dane Bozeman

 What did you study in school and what do you wish to do in the future?

I have studied Biology, Microbiology, Physical Chemistry, Human Cognition, and Statistics.

 What inspired you to start STEM-VRSE?

I took two of my younger cousins to see Jurassic Park in 1991. My cousins loved the dinosaurs, but I was fascinated with the scene in which the “scientists” used virtual reality to combine different DNA sequences.

 What do you want to learn while working with STEM-VRSE?

I want to learn about the manner in which human cognition adapts and develops in virtual learning environments. Also, how long can you play kill the robots before you puke.

 What research interests you the most?

All research interests me. I am an epistemologist at heart. “How we know” something is of more interest to me than “what we know.”

 If you were a flavor of cake, what would you be and why?

If I were a cake, I would be a guitar shaped pumpkin peanut butter cream cheese cake pointing towards a chocolate cherry cheesecake chi-square symbol. Why? First, these are a few of my favorite things. Second, Who doesn’t like cheesecake. Finally, did I mention the cheesecake?

 If you had to own a car, what car would it be?

I would own three. I would drive a 1960 red MGA convertible on the weekends, my daily driver would be a Porsche 911 cabriolet, and my going to get groceries would be a 1979 blue on blue Good Times van.



Meet Elizabeth Espey!


Every two weeks, we'll be introducing a member of our team to everyone! You know their names already, but we wanted to go a bit more in depth (and fun) and really get to know them!

Elizabeth graciously accepted the nomination to be our first Spotlight. Elizabeth Espey is our intern and we're so excited for you to meet her!

What is your name?

Elizabeth Espey

What are you studying in school and what do you wish to do in the future?

I am a senior at Texas A&M University, majoring in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences with a focus in Wildlife Ecology, projected to graduate August 2018. Within Wildlife Management, I prefer to focus on the conservation of marine mammals. Due to much of their habitats being inaccessible, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has many beaked whales listed as data deficient.  I would like to gather more data on these animals and take part in their preservation. My goal centers on the desire to prevent further loss of these animals as a result of habitat loss or degradation, changing environmental conditions, or use of certain fishing techniques.

What attracted you to being an intern at STEM-VRSE?

There are many components that made interning at STEM-VRSE an attractive option. Aside from the simple application process and moving mission, the main reason I decided to intern at STEM-VRSE was the team. STEM-VRSE is made of many individuals that are very focused and devoted to their mission and helping each other and the world. They are much warmer and focused on their goals than any company I have thus far worked with or looked to work with.

What do you want to learn while working with STEM-VRSE?

I hope to learn more about the world; how people interact in a company, how they interact with people outside of the company to achieve their goals, how funding is accumulated and how people change and adapt as they achieve their goals and grow as a company. 

What research interests you the most?                                      

I am most interested in the study of human animal interactions and how those interactions can affect diversity.       

What ingredient in an omelet would you be and why?

I would be the cheese because when I am present in a team I add a distinct flare and flavor. Omelets are still pretty great without cheese, but when you throw some swiss or mozzarella in there, it turns into this delicious stringy beautiful mess. I’m also horribly cheesy.

Tell us your best Dad Joke™

I have a few but this one is my favorite. How many tickles does it take to tickle an octopus?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . TENtickles!