Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
In collaboration with other faculty members, I designed a model which utilized bones cast with plastic resin and strings to simulate the action of the intrinsic muscles of the upper limb. I also designed, constructed & implemented a simulation model of the lower limb using basic technologies such as servo motors and a microcontroller combined with bones cast with plastic resin and string. The simulation model allowed students to type the name of a muscle into a computer and choose whether they wanted to see the action of the muscle while the limb was bearing weight or while the limb was freely moving. Upon pressing ‘enter’ the simulation model would create the desired movement via a system of pulleys controlled by four servo motors. Students could also use the simulation model to understand how muscles’ attachments to bones related to movement by attaching and detaching muscles made of felt and Velcro. Students who used the model performed significantly better than their peers who did not use the model.
Using 3D animation software, a 3D printer, physical computing & engineering, as well as some artistic and creative talent, I was able to expand significantly on the idea of using physical models to help students understand abstract concepts in the life sciences. I designed and constructed a series of models to illustrate multiple different concepts introduced in the undergraduate biomedical anatomy course. These concepts included basic biomechanics, skeletal muscle histology and physiology, the central and peripheral nervous system, and interactive illustrations of integrative application activities. In addition to investigating the effect of these kinds of models on overall learning, I explored the role of innate and learned spatial abilities on the use and efficiency of these models. The feedback from students on these models was extremely positive and the data collected is still being utilized in the development of manuscripts and further research opportunities. Between semesters when these models were being implemented I lead the implementation and evaluation of the effect of other innovative models and aides for teaching anatomy such as augmented and virtual reality applications and the Anatomy in Clay Learning System.®
The future of my research will expand upon the integration of educational psychology and innovative technologies. Although my current research is largely based in physically interactive models, I have many areas of interest and future research plans. As these areas have multiple components, I have organized the presentation of my future research plan into three sections: Physically Interactive Models, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Integrating Artistic Practices.