iSci: Interactive Technologies for Science Immersion is built upon the premise that young people learn best through interacting with information, a model of learning referred to as direct experience (“President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology,” Feb. 2012). Thus, the overarching objective of our project is to remove obstacles to teaching STEM by providing students with the opportunity to interact physically with scientific concepts. Our view is that by tapping into commonly used communication and game environments, like a Kinect Game System, a Wii Remote, Falcon Game Controller, and augmented reality software via an iPad—technologies already used by many young people today—and using affordances of computer gaming that encourage persistence in interaction, we will be able to develop a new way to present scientific concepts and build interest in science among young learners.
Haptic feedback, provided by the Falcon Game Controller, applies forces, motions, or vibrations to the user and, so, brings a realistic sense of touch to a user’s experience. This experience allows students to manipulate a molecule and feel the relative strength of bonds as it is tugged apart. A hydrogen atom can be mapped to the ball handle of the Falcon, allowing motion and vibration of that atom to translate to motion and vibration of the Falcon’s handle, which a student can feel. Likewise, forces generated by a student on the Falcon’s handle can influence the simulation of the molecule. Kinect is a motion-sensing device that tracks body movement in 3D. It also recognizes hand gestures and voice commands, which allows for hands free controlling and gesture based controls. This affordance allows students to use natural gestures to make a molecule to zoom in or out, rotate, and move across a space.
Because the iSci utilizes gaming technologies common to many young people today, students feel more at home learning in this environment.