USU students conduct research through augmented reality and interactive storytelling

Photo Illustration (Matt Halton)

A Utah State University research study has been conducting workshops for children to examine how they learn through making. The kids participating in this research have the opportunity to play games and create through AR, or augmented reality. AR blends the real world with the virtual world and was the same technology used to produce Pokemon Go.

The platform this technology is being produced on is called ARIS. ARIS is an open-source app that anyone can download to play and create games on. Along with USU students, Dr. Breanne Litts is directing this study.

“AR tells stories that are connected with place and identity,” Litts said.

The goal of this study is to further knowledge on how AR can be used in schools and what it is capable of. The kids enrolled in the program come to the workshop after school to work on their games. Each child has built their own game to play on ARIS.

“We are looking at the design skills kids learn through making and programming,” Litts said.

Ayla Stults-Lopez is gaining research through this experience under the supervision of Drs. Breanne Litts and Kristin Searle as part of a National Science Foundation award.

“The most surprising thing I have learned is how smart these kids are. I am blown away by how fast they have been able to pick this up,” Stults-Lopez said.

Stults-Lopez is a plant science major. Through this process she is hoping to “find out the best way kids learn with technology.” She would like to host workshops for children that teach them how to farm organically and urban farm in the future.

This study is focusing primarily on girls in grades 6-11. According to graduate student Whitney Lewis, this is to generate more interest in the field of computer science in females.

“We wanted to look at girls specifically. There is a lot of interest in how we can get girls involved in this male-heavy field of computational thinking,” Lewis said.

USU students have learned through this study that technology in the classroom will be more important than ever in the future. Coding, programming, and other similar skills will be ones that young children are going to be increasingly exposed to.

“I love the process of making things better. We thought, how can we get a hour of code activity for kids to work on? We’ve learned that introducing these skills through debugging proved to be a good activity,” Lewis said.

Research projects help students discover and process new information that will be useful in the future.

“Research is always good for students to be involved in,” Lewis said. “It shows you the process of how you can critically think and solve problems. The more research there is on campus, the more opportunities we will have.”

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