Skip Navigation

Institute of Education Sciences

IES Centers
Small Business Innovation Research

Related IES SBIR Awards

2000: Phase I: $50,000; 2001: Phase II, $300,000
2002: Phase I, $75,000; 2003: Phase II, $500,000

Key Information:

Address: 5275 Sardis Road, Murrysville, PA
Contact: Al Renshaw;

Project Titles:

Quantum Tutors®; Quantum Assessment Advisors®

SBIR Success Stories: Quantum Simulations, Inc.
Quantum Tutors


Quantum develops intelligent and adaptive learning and assessment software solutions to support K-16 students and adult learners in chemistry and mathematics. The tutors facilitate and scaffold learning through an interactive process. Through this process students select their own problems, ask questions, and receive automated step-by-step tutoring feedback. The on-demand tutors can be used in classrooms as direct support of a curriculum or as an independent tool for self-study, homework, or test preparation. Instructors receive real-time, actionable assessment tools intended to support student learning and test performance.

Research and Development:

The product was developed iteratively to ensure that the needs of users and the education market were addressed. For the tutoring component, a code library and rule-based problem solver were implemented to enable the artificial intelligence (AI) engine to accurately analyze and guide student work. Question-and-answer rules and content for student queries were developed. For the assessment component, detailed algorithms were extended to the AI framework. An algorithm was designed for automatically grading and recording student work, and reporting capabilities were developed for teachers.

Research during these projects demonstrated feasibility: the tutors worked on all operating systems, teachers indicated successful integration within standard practice, and students indicated high levels of engagement. Results from a pilot study found a correlation between using the tutor and improved grades for the 31 high school students using the tutor compared to the 20 high school students in the control group. Further research on the impact of the Quantum chemistry tutors is underway through an efficacy trial funded by the Institute's Math and Science Research Grants Program. Results will likely be available in 2013.

Commercialization: Quantum’s adaptive learning and assessment software has been commercialized through direct sales and distribution partnerships with textbook publishers Wiley Publishing, McGraw-Hill, and Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Partners incorporate Quantum tools in different ways such as integrating it with homework systems and online learning materials. As of 2013, Quantum has been adopted by over 300 schools serving more than 800 instructors and over 125,000 students.

The IES SBIR projects resulted in the development of core technologies which have served as the foundation and platform to expand to adaptive learning in new content areas such as accounting, and in the development of innovative assessment technologies, including “How Am I Doing?” student mastery reports and real-time Assessment Reporting for instructors to evaluate student progress and concepts needing remediation.

Selected Peer Reviewed Publications from this R&D:

  • Johnson, B., & Holder, D. (2002). A Cognitive Modeling Tutor Supporting Student Inquiry for Balancing Chemical Equations. The Chemical Educator, 7.
  • Walsh, M., Moss, C., Johnson, B., Holder D. & Madura, J. (2002). Quantitative Impact of a Cognitive Modeling Intelligent Tutoring System on Student Performance in Balancing Chemical Equations. The Chemical Educator, 7.
  • Johnson, B.G., & Holder, D.A. (2003). An Artificial Intelligence-Based Program for Automated Grading of Student Work in Balancing Chemical Equations. The Chemical Educator, 8.
  • Johnson, B.G., Phillips, F., & Chase, L.G. (2009). An Intelligent Tutoring System for the Accounting Cycle: Enhancing Textbook Homework with Artificial Intelligence. Journal of Accounting Education, 27.
  • Kuhel, J. et al. (2010). Quantitative Impact of an Artificial Intelligence Tutoring System on Student Performance in Assigning Oxidation Numbers in Chemical Formulas. The Chemical Educator, 15.
  • Johnson, B.G., & Holder, D.A. (2010). A Model-Tracing Intelligent Tutoring System for Assigning Oxidation Numbers in Chemical Formulas. The Chemical Educator, 15.
  • Phillips, F., & Johnson, B G. (2011). Online Homework Versus Intelligent Tutoring Systems: Pedagogical Support for Transaction Analysis and Recording. Issues in Accounting Education, 26.

Industry Awards for this R&D:

  • 2009 & 2010: The Platinum Award for best practices in distance learning programming, by the U.S. Distance Learning Association.
  • 2009: The EDDIE Award from ComputED Gazette’s 14th Annual Education Software Review Awards.
  • 2006: The Tibbetts Award for innovative research and development, by the US Small Business Administration.

Patents from this R&D:

  • Johnson, B.G. & Holder, D.A. (2003). Intelligent Tutoring Methodology Using Consistency Rules to Improve Meaningful Response. Patent number US 6,540,520.
  • Johnson, B. G. & Holder, D. A. (2008). Question and Answer Dialogue Generation for Intelligent Tutors. Patent number US 7,351,064.

Selected Follow-On Funding from this R&D:

  • Johnson, B. (2004 and 2007). Integrated Software for Artificial Intelligence Tutoring and Assessment in Science, ED IES/NCER Mathematics and Science Education Research award R305K040008 (2004) and R305A070067 (2007). For more information, see here for the 2004 award and here for the 2007 award.
  • Schneider, S. (2008). Efficacy study of Quantum Chemistry Tutors, ED IES/NCER Mathematics and Science Education Research Award R305A080063. For more information, see here.
Back to Success Stories