Auburn researcher receives grant for advanced learning technologies

Published: Sep 23, 2008 10:43:16 AM
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Hari Harayanan

N. Hari Narayanan

N. Hari Narayanan, professor in Auburn University's Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, is collaborating with researchers at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Kansas State University and Bentley College to design a virtual science experimentation platform for middle school science instruction. The project is supported by a $1.5 million grant to the four institutions from the Institute of Educational Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.

"The revolution in computational science has not yet impacted science education in schools," said Narayanan, whose research has previously been supported by the National Science Foundation and Office of Naval Research. "This project will help introduce students to computational tools. It will also create an advanced physics simulation system, with an interface customized to children for building and running virtual experiments."

The project is designed to draw on the strengths of each partner institution. Auburn will lead computer science research and development, leveraging Narayanan's expertise in human-computer interaction and educational technology. Faculty from the physics education research group at Kansas State will provide domain expertise, while usability testing will be conducted at the Information Design Department of Bentley. Wisconsin's college of education will deploy and evaluate the system in schools. The researchers hope to carry out several design and test cycles during the three years of the project in order to produce a proven system ready for national dissemination.

"Students will be able to explore what-if scenarios by changing physical properties and principles in ways not possible in the real world," Narayanan continued. "We will test the system in schools in Wisconsin and Kansas, and ultimately make it available to science teachers nationwide."