Pop Up Gallery: My Brain! is a mobile application that uses augmented reality to teach the functions and processes of the brain in relation to every day stimuli. The theme of the project was generated from a need for interdisciplinary collaboration on the WSU Vancouver campus between science oriented curriculum and art/design programs. The core student research team sought out and partnered with authorities in the neuroscience department to create a kinesthetic and engaging educational app that satisfied common core curriculum for brain education in an engaging and technologically forward way. The research asks the question, how can augmented reality be effectively integrated into brain education for students, particularly in a middle school science environment? The Pop Up Gallery team developed a mobile augmented reality based app in order to understand and answer this question.
Initial research was conducted in conjunction with Dr. Bill Greisar of the neuroscience department at WSU Vancouver to understand the key brain processes that the app should focus on. Research showed a need to demonstrate the brain transmissions related to the human senses, brain development, common emotional states, and how function is hindered by controlled substances. Using a combination of the Metaio AR SDK, the Microsoft Kinect SDK and traditional hand coded C++, the Pop Up Gallery team created an app that uses facial modeling rendered from an RGB-D camera to overlay a 3D brain on an individual’s face. The application interface then allows the user to select particular stimuli to be demonstrated and the 3D brain responds to the user request with highlighted and animated sections of the brain. In partnership with the neuroscience department and the neuroscience outreach group, Northwest Noggin the app has been demonstrated and tested by over 1000 K-12 students and faculty as well as prominent members of the Greater Portland neuroscience community. The app will continue to undergo development as the technology and usability research improves.
Our findings show that augmented reality proves to be an effective method of education for middle school curriculum. This project is an extension of the 2014 Pop Up Gallery research with a more refined topic. The need for this refinement will allow further research into other practical applications of augmented reality where other traditional media falls short. When technology and art are integrated effectively with STEM topics such as neuroscience, students show signs of increased engagement and topic retention. This is achieved particularly through augmented reality by compelling students to learn in a more personalized and kinesthetic way.