Icon for: Marc Russo


North Carolina State University


NSF Awards: 1316473

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6

ASPECT: Advancing Science Performance with Experimental Computer Technologies is a three year grant that looks at the possible impact of teaching grade school students Buoyancy, Molecular Bonding, and Magnetism using Haptic devices connected to a computer simulation built in Unity. This video explains the history of the project and gives a brief overview of the simulations introduced to students, Buoyancy and Molecular Bonding in year one and two. The team discusses the lessons learned and accomplishments as well as challenges.

The video then focuses on the year three simulation, Magnetism. The team introduces the simulation and we see students using the simulation during the final year pilot testing. 

Finally the research team gives their final thoughts on the project and the potential for future research for the use of Haptic Devices in elementary science classrooms.

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Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase (9 posts)
  • Icon for: Marc Russo

    Marc Russo

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 14, 2017 | 10:33 p.m.

    Welcome to ASPECT. I hope that you enjoy the video. 

    My partners, Dr. James Minogue (NCSU College of Education) and Dr. David Borland (UNC, RENCI) have tried in this video to tell the story of ASPECT: the background and the scope of the work that we have done. We have had the chance to work with some amazing educators and students over the course of this project and we wanted to make sure to show them engaging with the product. 

    We look forward to hearing your feedback and looking at other projects with similar goals. 

  • Icon for: Michael Stone

    Michael Stone

    Director of Innovative Learning
    May 16, 2017 | 12:55 p.m.

    Bringing haptic feedback to elementary science is an intriguing venture. I'm excited about this work, and I have several questions!

    1. What are the initial expectations regarding the impact of integrating haptics with science games/simulations?
    2. Have you consider the broader implications of haptics in other fields (i.e. engineering and computer science)?
    3. Are you planning to merge haptic engines with VR to create an even more realistic digital experience?

    I am eager to follow your work and learn more. The concept of using haptics to help students internalize learning experiences is particularly interesting!

  • Icon for: Marc Russo

    Marc Russo

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 17, 2017 | 10:21 p.m.


    Our expectations were that the haptics would increase curiosity in the subject and potential increase the students understanding of the topics that we were presenting. We are still in the process of going through the data. I am not sure that we are going to see the results support that, but since this was a exploratory project, we are hopeful that the lessons learned throughout this project will have the chance to be addressed. 

    It is interesting that we felt as though, through each subject area, that we needed to be stepping back a little and teaching about forces. Now I am not sure how this would work for grade school students, but potentially a haptic environment that taught forces and balancing forces would be a great tool for teaching Statics at a college level. 

    We have not thought about the inclusion of VR yet, but that is certainly a very interesting area that will need to be explored. Maybe the haptics is not enough for the idea of "embodiment" to take real effect, maybe the VR is necessary?

    Thank you for these thoughts. 

  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Regents' Professor Emerita
    May 16, 2017 | 01:12 p.m.

    I wonder what the haptic experience of the kids is. I see that they get to control what happens through a haptic device. I wonder whether they get haptic feedback. That is, if they are dropping a more dense block into the water, do they feel that it is more dense? If it is hard to move something away from a magnet, do they feel how hard it is? Do they feel the attraction of the magnet as they move something close to it? I'm guessing that feedback from the haptic device is really important to making sense.

  • Icon for: Marc Russo

    Marc Russo

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 17, 2017 | 10:28 p.m.

    Yes, half of the students could feel the weight of the blocks in and out of the water, they could feel the force of the magnet pulling (or not) on an object, and also the attractive forces of the molecules under different temperatures. While it was not a perfect representation of the forces, it worked well in most of the cases. 

    The other half of the students did not have the haptic feedback. Part of the analysis this summer will be looking at if there is a difference, and if so in what simulations was the difference greatest. 

  • Icon for: Chris Thorn

    Chris Thorn

    Director of Knowledge Mangement
    May 16, 2017 | 11:43 p.m.

    Were you able to do comparative work in this study - e.g. the magnet example was using a simple set of manipulatives that could have been relatively easy to bring to the classroom? I can see the efficiency argument right up front. If a range of environments can be simulated, that provides opportunities for students to make connections about fundamental principles across contexts. I'd like to see the baseline comparison to understand what is lost and gained. Is there anything lost when we step away from using the real objects - particularly since that was often groupwork in classrooms I have visited? 

    I find the work fascinating but it also leaves me with lots of questions.  

  • Icon for: Marc Russo

    Marc Russo

    Lead Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 17, 2017 | 10:37 p.m.


    We were not able to do the comparison that you are asking about. Our comparison was between two different sets of students within the simulations. One set of students got Haptic feedback, the other did not. 

    That simulations is one of the least interesting when it comes to our ideas of haptics, because it is very easy to set up that simulation in the classroom. The efficiency argument is a compelling one for this one and for some of the buoyancy simulations. 

    I think that we were more excited by the simulations that seemed to integral to really understanding the subject, but were "impossible" to set up or see in the classroom. 

    However, your question about what is lost or gained from interacting or not with real objects is one that needs more addressing. 

    We did eventually, in the third year, put students in pairs and let them work in groups on the simulations. We are excited to see what the differences were as we look at the data. 

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    May 18, 2017 | 09:21 a.m.

    Yes, I think further to Chris's questions, that doing some comparisons with other environments which scaffold students' attention on revealing aspects of the phenomena. and give them some interactivity, will be important to establishing what the specific contributions of the haptic element of the environment are. 

  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Regents' Professor Emerita
    May 18, 2017 | 03:50 p.m.

    I agree. THe important thing here is not to build the be-all and end-all haptic experience; at this point in time, I think we  need to be learning what the affordances of haptic elements are, what elements of the haptic technology and experience each contribute (or contribute in packages), and how to take advantage of those affordances to foster sense making and, ultimately, learning.

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