About NCIL

Our Mission

The National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL) is dedicated to expanding the understanding and participation of families, youth, educators, and citizens in science and technology through learning research and innovative programs.


NCIL is organized around five interconnected groups: 1) Exhibition Development, 2) Digital Learning, 3) Professional Development, 4) Community Outreach, and 5) Learning Research and Evaluation. NCIL programs span a range of audience needs and delivery methods. These include traveling museum exhibitions; digital learning technologies (e.g. gaming, augmented and mixed reality, novel data visualization systems, and online learning); hands-on teaching resources and activities; educator workshops; outreach to underserved audiences, such as girls' groups, Hispanic, Native American, urban and rural communities; and successful partnership building between scientists and educators. NCIL conducts external evaluations for a number of informal education organizations as well as providing internal evaluation services for on-going projects.

Educational projects include large-scale, institutional-level efforts supported by NSF and NASA (e.g., Great Balls of Fire, Space Weather Outreach, and Open Exhibits) as well as smaller-scale projects that focus on individual scientists seeking educational support for research projects (e.g., an asteroids project funded by NSF called Finding NEO). This strategic approach allows NCIL to leverage the needs and effectiveness of both kinds of endeavors and to explore new educational methods and effectively "scale up" those that show promise.

In keeping with that strategy, NCIL is pursuing new directions for educational programming: a strategic partnership with the American Library Association to pilot interactive STEM exhibits in libraries in Colorado and beyond (e.g. Discover Space, Discover Earth, and Discover Tech); applications of internet technologies to facilitate social learning experiences (e.g. Making Space Social), and the continued development of educational multimedia capabilities. NCIL staff and their partners are leading the way to a new generation of educational innovation, which bridges the worlds of STEM research, education, and communication.

Guiding Principles

  • Excite learners of all ages, ethnicities, and learning modalities with the thrill of scientific discovery
  • Integrate STEM research and STEM education
  • Ensure scientific accuracy in all activities
  • Rigorously evaluate and disseminate results
  • Cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships in STEM and education communities
  • Contribute significantly to educational research

NCIL Impacts for 2012

  • 171,162 visitors to museum exhibits
  • 162,002 visitors to library exhibits
  • 550,000 visits to NCIL educational websites
  • 244 participants in educator workshops, virtual workshops, and conference presentations
  • 25,000 downloads of NCIL educational materials, activities, and resources distributed online
  • 145 participants in NCIL outreach events