Sensory Extensions for STEM Learning

Inclusively-designing sensory extensions for STEM inquiry learning
NSF Award #2119303
Oct. 1, 2021 – March 31, 2024

PI: Emily Moore, PhET Interactive Simulations
Co-PI: Ann Eisenberg, CU Institute of Cognitive Science
Research Scientist: Brett Fiedler, PhET Interactive Simulations
Graduate Research Assistants (CU ATLAS): Chris Hill, Sammie Crowder, Casey Hunt

This project investigates innovative sensory extension device technologies to create learning materials that are accessible and enable diverse learners to use multiple modalities in science and mathematics learning. The new technologies will be designed, crafted, customized, and personalized by STEM learners with diverse needs. Humans think and communicate using multiple sensory modalities, including sight, sound, gesture, movement, and touch. Most science and mathematics learning materials convey information visually, with displays such as diagrams and simulations, resulting in learning experiences with limited sensory engagement. For many learners with visual or print-related disabilities, visual learning materials are inaccessible. Even for others, these materials constrain learning opportunities.

Sensory extension incorporates materials and devices to enable new or enhanced perceptions of real or virtual environments. Familiar sensory extension devices include eyeglasses (refractive lenses improve vision), and Geiger counters (auditory perception of radioactive decay).

In an inclusive co-design process, the project team will partner with diverse members of the learning community, together co-designing flexible, adaptive, and personalizable technologies, which enable new sensory experiences (e.g., sound, gesture, movement, and touch) to augment popular and widely used interactive simulation learning tools.

The project team brings together experts in educational technologies at the University of Colorado Boulder (PhET Interactive Simulations and the Craft Tech Lab) and partner organizations serving youth with learning disabilities and visual impairments.

Summer 2022: Sensory Extension for Color Vision

Hardware Prototypes for Sensory Extension of Ratio and Proportion