STTR Phase I: Lifelike Virtual Tutors to Support Authentic Learning

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 0441586
Agency Tracking Number: 0441586
Amount: $99,970.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Awards Year: 2005
Solicitation Year: 2004
Solicitation Topic Code: IT
Solicitation Number: NSF 04-551
Small Business Information
3452 Lake Lynda Drive, Orlando, FL, 32827
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: Y
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Edward Sims
 (407) 737-7309
Business Contact
 Edward Sims
Phone: (407) 737-7309
Research Institution
 TERC, Inc.
 Judy Vesel
 2067 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA, 02140
 (617) 547-0430
 Domestic nonprofit research organization
This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project will develop a proof-of-concept Web-delivered Virtual Reality (VR) simulation that incorporates lifelike virtual tutors capable of manipulating simulated objects and communicating in written or spoken English or sign language into TERC's Marble Roll--an online challenge for Grades 4-8. This research builds on Vcom3D's and TERC's use of avatars for communication of scientific concepts to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students. However, it extends the current capabilities from being communication aids to being mentors, participants, and/or interpreters who support all students in developing standards-based abilities of scientific inquiry and understanding of fundamental concepts related to forces and motion. The result will include: (1) developing a proof-of -concept VR simulation that challenges students to solve a problem and integrates the publication, comparison and analysis of their data; (2) evaluating the simulation's effectiveness in supporting all students' understanding of standards-based science content and process and attitude toward it, including those with special needs; and, (3) identifying requirements for an authoring tool to create a group of VR simulations. Successful proof-of-concept will lead to cost-effective, high quality, and more accessible authentic learning experiences for all students. This project provides an opportunity through the development and testing of new universal access and design features to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in authentic learning experiences. These features include the ability for students to select an avatar according to race, gender, or ethnicity; low bandwidth modem requirements for use in areas without a technology infrastructure; and sign language interpretation for deaf/hard-of-hearing students. A Virtual Tutor provides constant attention to students' actions and ideas, using verbal and visual modes of communication appropriate for that student--a benefit rarely realized in most classroom settings and one that advances discovery and scientific understanding and promotes learning that can continue over a lifetime. Additionally, learning with a VR simulation dramatically increases access to age-appropriate standards-based learning for students in classrooms without laboratories, in hospitals, and for those with mobility disorders or special learning needs including dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. By publishing the Virtual Marble Roll and commercializing an authoring tool for creation of new, universally designed VR simulations, and by licensing the virtual tutoring technology, the partners will promote widespread use of the proposed research and development that will support future enhancement and application.

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

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