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Educational Media to Promote healthcare Awareness through an Immersive Experience (EMPATHIE)

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 2R44GM130188-02A1
Agency Tracking Number: R44GM130188
Amount: $837,861.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 500
Solicitation Number: PAR20-244
Solicitation Year: 2020
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2023-05-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2025-04-30
Small Business Information
1410 Sachem Place
Charlottesville, VA 22901-2496
United States
DUNS: 120839477
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (434) 973-1215
Business Contact
Phone: (434) 973-1215
Research Institution

Significance: EMPATHIE is a unique learning system that introduces healthcare and science concepts in an
imaginative and engaging platform. The system combines an innovative motion-based game interface with
software that provides an immersive experience into motor control disorders and promotes inquiry-based
challenges. Importantly, lesson modules are presented to the student with a focus on design thinking and
empathy to enable a positive experience for students of diverse of abilities and backgrounds.
Problem to be Addressed: U.S. students rank poorly for performance in science, technology, engineering, and
math (STEM) fields; the number of students who pursue STEM and healthcare careers is not sufficient to meet
the needs of the modern workplace. Interactive digital media (IDM) targeted towards STEM education provide
students with engaging experiences that improve learning and interest in the STEM fields. However, design of
software that is effective for learning and readily applicable to classrooms is a challenging task, particularly
when the goal is to engage a range of socioeconomic groups.
Long-Term Goal: Improve STEM learning and interest in K-12 students from diverse backgrounds.
Phase I Results: During the Phase I effort, a prototype EMPATHIE system was developed and verified to be
functional with electromyography sensors in a classroom setting. Evaluation with middle school students
demonstrated a statistically significant increase in science learning following the EMPATHIE lesson.
Phase II Hypotheses: The SBIR Phase II program will test the hypotheses that students who complete
EMPATHIE lessons, expanded for middle school life science, physical science, and engineering design, will see
statistically significant increases in both science interest and learning compared to a control lesson.
Phase II Summary: Barron Associates, Inc. (award-winning innovators in the field of serious video games) has
partnered with educational leaders who champion design thinking and diversity in STEM for this SBIR Phase II
program. The specific objectives of the Phase II program are to: (1) develop the Phase II commercial-ready
electromyography game-control hardware; (2) conduct participatory design sessions to inform updated game
story frameworks and engagement mechanisms targeted towards a variety of student populations and obtain
feedback from teachers; (3) create lesson content, which expands the Phase I lessons for use in additional science
classrooms, along with teacher training materials; (4) develop the Phase II EMPATHIE game software comprised
of expanded lesson content and learning challenges; (5) perform usability testing; and (6) conduct formal
assessment of learning and engagement levels with middle school students following sessions with the
expanded EMPATHIE game.
Impact: The system will have a significant impact on STEM education by increasing student learning and
promoting interest in healthcare careers.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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