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IES Contract

Title: An Augmented Reality-Based Design Puzzle Sandbox for Use in Early Elementary STEM Instruction
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Whitmer, Christopher Awardee: Parametric Studios, Inc.
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (06/18/2020 – 06/17/2022) Award Amount: $900,000
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: 91990020C0085

Project Website:

Video Demonstration of the Phase I Prototype:

Purpose: This project team will fully develop and test NEWTON-AR, an augmented reality (AR) application-based engineering and computer science puzzle game for children in kindergarten (K) to grade three. The Next Generation Science Standards places emphasis on engineering at all K to grade 12 levels. New computer science standards are being proposed and implemented K to grade 12 and implementation at the elementary level presents unique challenges and opportunities. Early exposure to concepts that foster the development of spatial reasoning, problem solving, and science and mathematical skills predict success in STEM and careers in STEM.

Project Activities: During Phase I in 2019, the team developed a prototype that included STEM-focused puzzle challenges presented through an augmented reality (AR) interface that facilitated experiences mirroring traditional real-world play-building activities for students in kindergarten to grade two. At the end of Phase I, researchers conducted a pilot study in 3 classrooms with 68 students in grade 2. Results demonstrated that the prototype functioned as planned, the AR sandbox was engaging for over 95 percent of students, and 90 percent of students easily completed a complex design and programming task in 40 minute of class time. Students also increased their scores on general STEM content knowledge 9 percent and their scores on computer science concepts increased 11 percent from pre- to post-test.

In Phase II, the team will refine and expand the AR interface, expand the curricular aligned content for children in kindergarten to grade three, create supporting curricular units, optimize web deployment, and build out the teacher reporting dashboard. After development is complete, the researchers will conduct a quasi-experimental pilot study to assess the feasibility and usability, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of NEWTON-AR to increase children's learning in engineering topics. The study will include 24 grade 1 to 3 classrooms over 4 weeks. During the units, half of the classrooms will use NEWTON-AR and half will follow business-as-usual procedures. Researchers will compare pre- and post-test scores on standards-aligned STEM topics and attitudes towards STEM. Costs will be calculated based on the actual per student and class wide implementation costs.

Product: This project will fully develop NEWTON-AR, an augmented reality (AR) application-based engineering, computer science, and STEM puzzle game for children in kindergarten to grade three. Intended for use in classrooms, after-school programs, and at home, NEWTON-AR will combine AR, engineering, simulation, making, and programming into a sandbox game where students create, modify, simulate, prototype, and test contraptions to solve puzzle challenges. With each challenge many of the components have kit elements that can be fabricated and combined with virtual simulations in mixed-reality design and testing activities. NEWTON-AR will also include supporting curricular materials for teachers, student workbooks, and online media resources.

Related IES Project: An Augmented Reality Sandbox for use in Early Elementary STEM Instruction (91990019C0033)