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SBIR Phase I: Game-based learning for organic chemistry using mechanisms

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1548225
Agency Tracking Number: 1548225
Amount: $149,940.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: EA
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2015
Award Year: 2016
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2016-01-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2016-06-30
Small Business Information
4735 Walnut Lake Road
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301
United States
DUNS: 054577584
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: Yes
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Julia Winter
 (248) 227-5095
Business Contact
 Julia Winter
Phone: (248) 227-5095
Research Institution

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project makes the theoretical touchable for organic chemistry students by building a game for mobile devices based on mechanisms. Mechanisms are maps of bond-breaking and bond-making events illustrating how an organic reactant is transformed into a product. This underpinning concept is a powerful tool used both in the teaching and the practice of organic chemistry. Organic chemistry is traditionally the gateway class for students progressing into STEM careers, such as medicine and engineering. The course has earned its roadblock reputation with attrition rates in the range of 30-50%. The fail-rate for under-represented minorities and first generation students is even higher than that of the general student population. Students' previous learning in chemistry or other sciences does not adequately prepare them for the cognitive load of structure and pattern recognition required to master organic chemistry. This project will produce the mechanism game and bring a tactile interface to learning chemistry. The game is designed to span the entire curriculum, into graduate levels. The accessibility and relatively economical cost-structure of the mechanism game is particularly attractive to the market of students needing to excel in organic chemistry to achieve their career goals. The technical innovation of this project is delivering the content of chemical mechanisms using a touch-screen, game-based format. By layering audio, visual, and kinesthetic cues in the user interface of the game, students will 'feel' bond-breaking and making, acidity, and resonance. The mechanism game is an intrinsically motivating system for students to know when they are moving through a reaction mechanism correctly, helping students gain the intuition necessary for success in organic chemistry. The important piece of this project is the development of this new learning tool as a game, as opposed to an interactive tutorial. The research will focus on the iterative process of creating engaging game-play by field-testing with players as the game is developed. The technical challenge of the project is devising a game that can tolerate the scientific scrutiny of academic chemists while remaining appealing to even the casual game player. The key metric for success will be testing the mechanism game with chemistry professors and instructors to determine whether they would recommend the game to their organic chemistry students.

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

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