Interactive Software that Stimulates Learning of STEM Concepts for All Ages

Technology #15554

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Researchers
Curtis Taylor
James C. Oliverio
Managed By
Richard Croley
Assistant Director 352-392-8929

Instructional System Uses Multisensory Interface (touch, sight, sound) to Create Immersive Experience to Learn about Nanotechnology

This comprehensive video game-like program aids to promote fun and easy learning of science and math concepts in a classroom setting. Existing haptic technology is employed to enhance the training of pilots to fly aircraft, doctors to perform delicate and complex surgeries, and primarily for advanced scientific application including microscopy instrumentation and robotic manipulation. The efficacy of haptic technology is largely unexplored to the learning of science concepts. This is because the high cost of these applications has deemed haptics unmarketable for a mid to low-range price market. Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a program that combines an inexpensive haptic force feedback device, a virtual environment, and an auditory element to promote learning in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This technology may be broadly applied to younger audiences including, but not limited to, elementary and middle school students.

Application

Interactive, virtual learning material for the promotion of STEM topics in classroom settings.

Advantages

  • Uses low cost feedback game controller, resulting in cost-effective instructional material
  • Enables video game-like interface, making learning software easier to use for users of all ages
  • Harnesses USB hook-up, allowing for cooperative and simple implementation with Windows-compatible computers.

Technology

This education program, HapNan, combines the low-cost Novint Falcon® controller with easy-to-use instructional software to create an optimal tactile and visual learning environment. The Falcon controller incorporates three electrical motors connected to the controller’s three extending arms. These arms are able to produce and carry a force of up to two pounds to the controller grip. The Falcon’s handle reproduces realistic movement via the ability to move in all directions, in all three directional axes. When the 3D cursor controlled by the Falcon controller comes into contact with an object in the virtual environment, the computer updates the motors' currents accordingly to deliver an appropriate force to the device’s handle, where the user is able to feel. The computer updates the currents to the motors at a 1 kHz rate, or one thousand times per second, providing a very realistic sense of touch. The controller is connected to a computer system via USB port and is compatible with Windows operating systems.