Adventium Enterprises and the University of Minnesota (UMN) propose to develop a participatory educational toolkit and curriculum to teach neuroscience and mental health concepts via exploratory and investigative learning that integrates nervous system function with engineering, technology and mathematics concepts. iNeuron" models neuronal, synaptic, and circuit functions, and will provide an engaging, hands-on, problem- solving learning environment using mobile computing devices that are growing more common in classrooms. This project will combine development of 1) a flexible, multimodal software architecture integrating classroom level and distributed classroom learning environments hosted on multiple, interactive hand-held devices with centralized management and coordination and 2) an immersive story-based set of neuroscience challenges to teach key concepts by transforming a set of handheld electronic devices into functionally connected neurons. By engaging in solving these challenges, students will deepen their understanding of how their own brains control body and cognitive functions and change with learning. Subsequently, the students'understanding that they are in charge of changing their own brains is expected to motivate learners to apply themselves in school. Our long range goal is to increase secondary student involvement in scientific and engineering problem solving activities to build higher order thinking skills needed in the 21st century economy. The objective of this proposed SBIR is to develop and deploy, via existing online channels, an interactive application to enable students to transparently acquire these skill sets while engaged in modeling and learning about nervous system functions. To accomplish these goals, Adventium Enterprises has partnered with neuroscientists from the University of Minnesota. Adventium has a rich history of active participation in educational projects and experience researching, developing, and fielding advanced technology. The University of Minnesota has developed and evaluated the highly successful BrainU series of science teacher professional development workshops combining neuroscience and inquiry pedagogy. Together, our Phase 1 specific aims are to develop the software application, a series of lesson plans that meet educational standards, and evaluate the implemented prototype in a classroom.
This SBIR directly supports the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint goal of promoting neuroscience knowledge acquisition and application of that knowledge to one's own life by providing a robust teaching tool for exploratory and investigative learning integrating engineering, technology and mathematics concepts with nervous system function. Based on a successful proof-of-concept evaluation, the resulting educational tool will increase K-12 student and general public understanding of normal nervous system function as well as drug interactions, and mental and neurological disorders. It will directly support the NIH Blueprint and the following educational standards: National Science Education Standards, AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks, Standards for Technology Literacy, National Educational Technology Standards, Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, and numerous state standards including those from California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Texas.