Principal Investigator: Thomas Holme
Organization: Iowa State University
This project will take advantage of emerging augmented reality technology to provide students with an interactive tool to access information they need to understand laboratory instruments, precisely when they realize they need the help. Laboratory instrumentation plays a vital role in modern scientific discovery, so it is critical that laboratory experiences in the undergraduate curriculum help students gain knowledge and comfort with instruments. This learning about instruments takes place while students also grapple with new science content, so the challenges they encounter in laboratory courses are amplified. Students will use the camera on their devices (a cell phone or tablet) and capture a laboratory instrument. The software then superimposes an interface above the instrument, augmenting the real-world instrument. Students will then use the provided links to learn what they need to know about how to use the instrument or how the information provided can be used to understand the chemistry being explored. In addition to designing and testing the application, research will be conducted to see how access to this new tool influences student knowledge gains, both about the instrument and the science that the instrument helps students explore.
The project will develop a new augmented reality interface that incorporates camera-based recognition of selected laboratory instruments using the Unity and Vuforia development suite. Usability testing will be used to optimize the design parameters of this interface. Once development of a high-level beta version of the software has been completed, testing will be carried out in general chemistry laboratories with different cohorts of students accessing the application for different experiments. Testing of both cohorts will probe the effect of augmented reality on both the procedural and informational transparency of instrument use and its impact on conceptual understanding of the chemistry content of the labs.