The ELASTIC3S project seeks to create a new genre of technology-enhanced interactions for education with the development of “simulation theaters for embodied learning” that target critical, crosscutting ideas in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education. The project is funded by the Cyberlearning Program at the National Science Foundation and it involves an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign conducting complementary research on two fronts: 1) examining the role that body movement plays in high school students’ understanding of cross-cutting ideas in science (e.g., scale and magnitude, stability and change, etc.), and 2) developing new machine learning techniques for tracking and categorizing learner movements that can be utilized in educational simulations on a variety of science topics. The ability to interact with computer games and simulations using more natural body movements is facilitated by off-the-shelf technologies such as the Microsoft Kinect, but new algorithms are needed to respond with minimal training to the kinds of movements produced by science learners.

The primary educational goal of this project is support more effective transfer of learning across science topics using new technologies. Students typically learn about cross-cutting ideas such as scale and rates of change in their science classes, but they learn about these ideas separately for each topic and often struggle to apply them to new topics when they are relevant. Our aim with ELASTIC3S is to create a common language, based in body movements, for communicating about these big ideas, such that they can be expressed in the same way regardless of whether a students is working in earth science, physics, biology, or chemistry.

This research is being conducted by an interdisciplinary team of learning scientists and computer scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Faculty and students from the College of Education, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and the Illinois Informatics Institute (I3)  are collaborating to design and implement prototype simulation theaters for embodied learning that can be tested with high school students in Central Illinois.

If you live in the Central Illinois area and you, your child, or your class are interested in participating please contact us.

Video of CB3 C0UNTz: A Gesture-Based Quantity Manipulator