Brad McLain is an educational researcher and co-director of XSci at the University of Colorado Denver. XSci is the Experiential Science Education Research Collaborative and produces both projects and research based on experiential learning theory and the field of identity construction. McLain's research focus is on science identity construction and the role of narrative (storytelling) in the transformation of knowledge into understanding and personal meaning making. He is also an accomplished documentary filmmaker and multimedia designer, serving as the director of the Inspire Me film series examining the psychology of inspiration through impacts of life-changing learning experiences for teachers. So far the series includes the award winning Inspire Me: Weightless Flights of Discovery (2009) and Inspire Me Africa (2012). “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth filming,” is Brad’s philosophy regarding the many extraordinary teacher experiences XSci conducts around the world. His science education and multimedia design work has included numerous projects for the NSF, NASA, corporate clients, and University projects over the past 15 years.
Brad’s personal journey began growing up in Norfolk, Nebraska and later attending the University of Nebraska Lincoln and the University of Colorado Boulder, including many inspirational guides and colleagues along the way – from 4th grade teacher Mrs. Rave, to the critical influence of a martial arts instructor for over two decades, to more recent relationships with NASA astronauts, Jane Goodall, and hundreds of hopeful, hungry, and bright teachers around the country. Prior to joining the faculty at UCD, McLain was an educational researcher at the Space Science Institute, a multimedia instructional designer in the online learning industry, a NASA educational lead, and a social science researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Important to his personal trajectory, Brad’s NASA work included serving as an education lead for space shuttle mission STS 107, in partnership with Lucasfilm. That mission, however, ended in tragedy as Columbia's final flight, marking the beginning of the end of the shuttle program, and a yearlong depression for Brad (and affecting many others in the program). But ultimately, the example of the Columbia’s crew inspired Brad to pursue his Ph.D. and dedicate his life to understanding how we learn – including all the passion, emotion, and thirst that embodied those seven precious people. Following his work on the human space flight side of NASA, he became in involved in several space science and astrobiology missions through the Science Mission Directorate and the NASA Astrobiology Institute – the search for alien life. Today, Brad serves as co-director of XSci, co-founder of the Colorado Experiential STEM Learning Network, is helping to lead the Colorado Roots & Shoots initiative and sits on the international Roots & Shoots steering committee for the Jane Goodall Institute, is a co-developer of the STEMHarmony initiative to create an online school/industry match-making service, sits on the Battelle STEMx “Promising Practices & Innovations in STEM Education” committee, and is leading the organization of the Experiential STEM Learning Conference in Denver in 2014, among other activities.