Research on Augmented Reality (AR) technologies for STEM education
Role: Researcher Developer Presenter
Timeline: March 2019 - May 2020
Tags: User Research User Interview Software Development
Tools: Unity Game Engine C# Android OS Vuforia Google Drive Google Docs Google Slides Dropbox
Detail: Research and mobile application development as part of NASA Space Grant Consortium
and National Science Foundation UNY Innovation Crops STEM Marketing
A middle school student testing the beta version of Sheen AR application for STEM education
At the crossroads of innovation and education lies the Sheen project—a research initiative that I spearheaded as an undergraduate student under faculty supervision.
Conducted within the Department of Computer Science at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology, the project aimed to leverage Augmented Reality (AR) as a transformative tool for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.
With the generous support of NASA's West Virginia Space Grant Consortium (NASA WVSGC), Sheen sought not merely to augment classroom learning but to revolutionize it.
Over a year, this research initiative birthed multiple Android-based AR applications, all designed to facilitate better learning experiences in STEM subjects for K-12 students.
Extension and Collaborations
The initial success of the Sheen project led to an extended commitment from the NASA WVSGC. This vote of confidence helped us not only sustain our efforts but also broaden our horizons.
As a significant milestone, the project was incorporated into the National Science Foundation's (NSF) UNY Innovation Corps (I-Corps) STEM marketing program.
This prestigious program served as a catalyst in steering the project in the right direction, offering invaluable mentorship and guiding me through the complexities of audience analysis and market fit. Through it, I was equipped with the tools and knowledge to conduct thorough interviews and data collection across diverse educational settings.
Traditional teaching methods often struggle to make complex STEM topics, specifically in Biology and Chemistry, accessible to K-12 students.
In a world where digital literacy is increasingly essential, many teachers still face challenges in adopting new technologies.
My interviews revealed a divide: while some educators hesitated to incorporate novel technologies like AR, mainly due to a lack of training and familiarity, students were generally eager and ready to engage with such innovations.
The issue highlights the urgent need for more immersive and interactive teaching tools that cater to the comfort level of both teachers and students.
Purpose & Audience
At its core, the Sheen project aimed to remedy the gaps and shortcomings in traditional STEM education.
The primary objective was to introduce AR as an efficient and engaging medium for K-12 students, with a particular focus on Biology and Chemistry.
Future phases aimed to include engineering and mechanical topics, rounding out the holistic STEM experience.
Designed to be compatible initially with Android devices, I also envisioned extending the application to cater to iOS users.
Ultimately, Sheen aspired to serve a broad audience: from young students just beginning their educational journeys, to high school students looking for more advanced materials, to educators seeking novel methods to enrich their teaching strategies.
A model of DNA structure as seen within the beta AR application. Users could take the device which was running the application through the model for an in-depth look.
Interviews & User Feedback
One of the project's cornerstone achievements came through its acceptance into the NSF UNY I-Corps program. This facilitated a series of targeted interviews with a wide array of stakeholders—high school students, special education teachers, and online instructors.
The feedback offered a nuanced understanding of the educational ecosystem. While some educators hesitated to integrate AR technologies into their pedagogy due to a lack of familiarity, others—particularly those in special and online education—embraced it as a revolutionary educational tool.
Students, almost universally, were excited by the possibilities of AR, especially those who had the chance to test the beta versions of the application at science fairs. This feedback loop was not just encouraging but also crucial in shaping the project's future trajectory.
A model of the globe projected on the AR marker on the paper.
My portfolio features a comprehensive research paper on the Sheen project, elaborating on methodologies, findings, and the potential for future research.
This paper isn't just an academic exercise—it serves as a blueprint for educators and technologists interested in the convergence of AR and STEM education.
Alongside this, the Sheen project also saw academic recognition. It was presented at the American Society for Engineering Education 2020 conference, secured first place at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering STEM awards, and was even featured in West Virginia Science and Research magazine.
Research project presented during International Annual American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) 2020 Virtual/Montréal Conference
NASA West Virginia Space Grant Consortium (NASA WVSGC) Undergraduate Fellowship
1st place Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) West Virginia Section STEM Awards
Project accepted for National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps short course program, STEM marketing
Third place during West Virginia University Launch Lab “Is there an app for that?” App based business competition & during West Virginia University Institute of Technology Launch Lab "Campus-wide Pitch" Event
Greenbrier Valley Quarterly Magazine March 2020
West Virginia University Institute of Technology online news section June 2019
West Virginia Science & Research June 2019
Mountain Messenger Newspaper July 2019
The Fayette Tribune Newspaper July 2019
Featured on The Neuron, West Virginia Science and Research magazine Summer 2019 Edition
Results & Future Steps
The prototypes, developed using the Unity Game Engine and Vuforia online application, were tested with overwhelmingly positive results.
The opportunity to interact with the models at an unprecedented level—like virtually stepping inside a science model—was a highlight for many students. A math instructor found the 3D graphs and charts particularly useful compared to traditional 2D representations.
As the project mainly focused on technology, usability, and user research, the next phase is planned to venture into user experience and interface design. Although I've since graduated from the undergraduate program, the groundwork laid by the Sheen project opens promising avenues for future research.
↓ View the final research paper presented below