$300,000 NIH award to boost STEM proficiency through augmented reality gameplay

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Credit: Purdue University/Oren Darling

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Explore Interactive, a Purdue University-affiliated startup, has received a $300,000 Phase I SBIR award from the National Institutes of Health for its augmented reality platform to help students learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

This latest award comes after Explore Interactive received a $225,000 SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation to make its augmented reality platform collaborative between devices. A video about the startup is available at https://youtu.be/gHsGher7HGU.

Explore Interactive has worked with educators and elementary students from across the United States in the development of its technology, which lets children work together to solve hands-on STEM challenges and conduct open-ended design and play.

“With our vision of democratizing STEM education, the NIH grant helps us not only to provide engaging STEM experiences, but also ensure that the students are grasping fundamental crosscutting concepts and skills through quantifiable metrics collected in the platform,” said Amanda Thompson, CEO of Explore Interactive.

Thompson said the NIH award will allow the company to begin to design ways to quantitatively assess conceptual understanding of core STEM ideas like energy as well as track growth in proficiency in science and engineering practices in the classroom through the augmented reality platform.

Real-time analytics taken from students performing applied exercises and experiments will be available synchronously in the teacher dashboard. Teachers and administrators can use these statistics to improve instruction and ensure understanding of scientific principles emphasized in state and national standards.

Thompson said Explore’s platform unlocks the potential of augmented reality to deliver analytics of soft skills like collaboration and hard skills like systems thinking through applied, hands-on design and troubleshooting, instead of worksheets and multiple choice tests. The student is encouraged by an experienced and knowledgeable guide embedded in an interactive storyline to make learning seem like play.

Thompson and her team collaborated with HitPoint Studios and conducted educational research with researchers at the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering at Purdue University.

“Purdue resources have played a part in our success since the inception of the company,” Thompson said. “We have received early stage Foundry funding and connected with leading education and industry players.”

Explore has received support and guidance from the Purdue Foundry, a commercialization accelerator in Purdue University’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at [email protected]

“Explore Interactive is an excellent example of how persistence and resourcefulness helps transform an idea into societal impact,” said Scott Henderson, vice president and chief entrepreneurial officer for the Purdue Research Foundation. “The company’s founders have leveraged the rich resources of the Purdue commercialization ecosystem to produce a product that is already enriching young lives and drumming up enthusiasm for STEM.”

Explore technology aligns with Purdue’s Giant Leaps celebration of the university’s global advancements made in health, space, artificial intelligence and sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. Those are the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

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About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was co-named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship. Contact the Purdue Foundry at [email protected]

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341, [email protected]

Sources: Amanda Thompson, [email protected]

Scott Henderson, [email protected]

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Chris Adam
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