This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project explores the technical, instructional and commercial viability of Augmented Reality applications for K-12 science education. Research indicates that learning science in context increases student involvement and makes data meaningful. The opportunity is to further deepen the learning experience using emerging AR technology. This proposal is led by Imaginary Lines, a small, woman-owned business. The Phase I research will answer questions regarding technical implementation, usability, instructional design and commercial potential by developing and assessing prototypes that display real-time measurements in a background scene with increasingly sophisticated Augmented Reality. The research plan includes: Technical Evaluation of implemented features to assess reliability and robustness; Design Evaluation, to review functionality with users (students and teachers), gauge expectations, and identify delivery approaches that resonate; Usability Testing of prototype activities to assess product use; Instructional Evaluation, to gauge the appeal and instructional value; and Suitability Testing, to assess reactions to the concept and to specific implementations.
The broader impacts/commercial potential of this project result because the proposed product brings a technology to K-12 education that could transform the way students imagine, learn and interact with science. Augmented Reality appeals strongly to students, puts science in real-world context and stimulates independent exploration. The product would deliver standards-based science content in a richly engaging, personal and contextual way. It promises broad benefits, including instructional benefits, by teaching science in context; and societal benefits, by developing 21st century skills in tomorrow?s workforce. Augmented Reality is projected to reach the education market by 2014. This product could be first to market with Augmented Reality applications for science education. Today's students are growing up with Augmented Reality; it will be how they naturally assimilate information and explore their world. The product's competitive advantage is that it presents real data as part of the student?s world in a way that the student will (by then) be accustomed; its transformative nature charts a path to even further innovation.
Background on the Key Concepts in Science Labs Key Concepts in Science Labs are award-winning science investigations for Middle School students. The labs use electronic measurement probes controlled by a software program. A lab takes the form of an interactive e-book, where the modes of interaction include gathering and analyzing real-time measurement data. For this research, we selected three labs that represented three broad areas of science (life, earth and physical science) and three different styles of measurement (discrete measurements, continuous measurement of a single stationary object, and continuous measurement of multiple objects in motion.) We then re-envisioned the experiments with the intent of seeing how we could enhance the potential for learning by adding a camera to collect either a still image or a live video, and then augmenting the image or video in various ways. When that was done, we conducted a formal assessment of the educational value added by the augmented reality. First lab – Putting Water to the Test This lab experiment has students measure the conductivity (the standard method for estimating Total Dissolved Solids, or TDS) of four water samples – distilled water, tap water, ocean water and water with a measured amount of table salt. The discrete measurements in this lab were a natural fit with taking a still image of the four water samples, and then augmenting this image with the various measurements as they were done. On subsequent pages, the student is prompted to measure the conductivity of each sample in turn. The live measurements are displayed over the appropriate beaker until it data has stabilized, at which point the student captures the current data value. On subsequent pages, previously captured values are displayed over the correct beakers, while the water sample being measured shows the current live data. When all samples have been measured, the student is asked to interpret the collected measurements in various ways. Second lab – Endless Exchange This lab lets students experiment with a simple physical model of the human respiratory system. The model consists of a balloon (representing the lungs) inside a sealed container (the rib cage) and a syringe (representing the diaphragm) connected through tubing to the container. The air pressure within the balloon is monitored as the student draws the syringe in and out. The lab starts with instructions for the student to assemble the equipment. When this has been done, the camera is turned on and the student is asked to identify the balloon by drawing a rectangle around it using the standard technique of dragging the cursor from one corner of the rectangle to the opposite corner. Once the balloon has been identified, the pressure reading inside the balloon is continuously displayed in the video. The student is now asked to simulate breathing by pulling the syringeâ€™s plunger out and then pushing it back, repeating this several times. As the student does this, the current pressure measurement is continually displayed, as well as plots the pressure measurements over time. By using the time slider, the student can review the experiment in the order and speed at which it was performed. But with the single control, she can also focus in on segments of particular interest. After the student answers some questions about the relationship between the balloon volume and the pressure, the lab uses an overlaid animation to reinforce the correspondence between the experimental model and the biological system it is modeling. The student controls the overlaid animation by the process of pulling and pushing on the syringeâ€™s plunger. Third lab – It All Adds Up This lab uses a pair of force sensors mounted on a low-friction "car" to enable the student to experience opposing forces that either do or do not balance one another. The augmented reality version of the lab built on the techniques developed for the second lab, but added motion tracking and the visualization of force vectors. A series of directed questions prompted students to recognize that the length of the vector represented how hard they were pushing on the sensor bumper. After this initial experimentation, we overlaid a graph showing the changing force overtime and recorded a short video sequence with the student pressing the bumper with varying force. The lab then had the student experiment with two force sensors, mounted on a low-friction car with the sensors mounted in an opposing orientation. The student was asked to apply varying force to the two bumpers, but in a manner that did not cause the cart to move. The third part of the lab investigated the unbalanced forces associated with moving the cart.