The proposed NeuroScience Practical Applications to Reach K-12 Students (NeuroSPARKS) project leverages wireless technology in physiological sensing to create an affordable and engaging system for hands- on neuroscience education in K-12 students. The NeuroSPARKS system features an innovative armband embedded with electromyography (EMG) sensors, providing a means for untrained teachers and students to bring EMG sensing technology into classrooms. It is hypothesized that the NeuroSPARKS system will increase science learning and interest as students complete hand-on, inquiry-based neuroscience challenges that are motivated by medical rehabilitation applications of the technology. For each instructional lesson that presents neuroscience concepts, students will use EMG system to interface with software, controlling a virtual arm in a variety of challenges. The lesson modules will be developed specifically to offer convenient integration into classrooms by matching multidisciplinary learning standards and developing comprehensive teacher training materials. Increasing interest and solidifying background knowledge in the sciences are important educational goals to improve the numbers of students pursuing scientific and technical careers. The NeuroSPARKS project aims to develop a highly-effective and accessible system that introduces students to engaging science challenges, increases learning, and promotes interest in science. In the proposed Phase I effort, Barron Associates, in partnership with Dr. Eric Perreault, and the Albemarle County Public School system, will develop, apply, and assess the effectiveness of the prototype wireless EMG hardware, the software interface, and instructional lesson materials and learning assessments. A Phase I pilot study conducted with approximately 180 middle-school students will be used to objectively measure the increase in science knowledge and interest that results from using the NeuroSPARKS system, the results of which will be statistically assessed to evaluate the success of the Phase I program. These efforts will provide a solid basis for subsequent Phase II studies that expand the system into additional schools and grade levels.
The Neuroscience Practical Applications to Reach K-12 Students (NeuroSPARKS) system is an innovative neuroscience educational tool that presents instructional materials to students along with hands-on challenges using a wireless electromyography armband that measures muscle activity. The proposed system will increase scientific knowledge and interest in K-12 students, addressing the national concern regarding decreasing numbers of students pursuing scientific and technical careers. Increasing interest in scientific fields is crucial for society to address the growing number of medical and technical problems.