Education Technology projects

Chandan Dasgupta

ShopAssist - guided by Dr. Gregory Corso

Duration: 10 weeks
Collaborators: Cory-Ann Smarr, Hwajung Hong, Jesse Smith, and Ronald Stevens
Users: 14 – 75 years
Methodology: Brainstorming, Wireframes, Personas, Scenarios, Video data logging, Preliminary Task Analysis, Functional Flow Diagrams, Decision Action, Function Allocation, Interface and Workload Analysis, Checklists, Heuristic Evaluation, Interview, Questionnaire, Survey, Cost Projections.

The goal of this project was to help shoppers at major retailers get their shopping done quickly, efficiently, and successfully. Our target shopper was a person who came to a store with the explicit goal of quickly finding their items and leaving the store. We wanted to facilitate an efficient shopping experience where shoppers got the best value for their money and had a minimal amount of fatigue navigating through a store while they gathered their items.  


Learning by Design - guided by Dr. Janet Kolodner

Learning by Design project was based on the philosophy that children learn best when they try out things with their own hands i.e. by doing. Based on this idea, we aimed to help middle school students understand complex concepts in science and to use that knowledge to generate scientific explanations. Children simulated different  hovercraft designs using our software and learned about forces, friction and properties of air (that it can actually move things!). They then built mini-hovercrafts using artifacts provided by us and tried out the designs. The next stage was to document their observations in the online journal (available in the software). Students tried to provide reasons for why something is happening (like - Why is the hovercraft moving faster on the smooth surface as compared to the rough surface?). At every stage proper scaffolding was provided to help learn the science concepts.

Phase 1:

Evaluation of Jacket's Garage (Educational/Visualization tool)-
Duration: 7 weeks
Collaborators: Ganesh Bhat, Kim Weaver, Meghna Singh
Users: Middle school students
Methodology: Task analysis, User Observation, Video data logging, Think aloud protocol, Heuristic evaluation, Qualitative analysis

1. Measuring the learning that was happening through our software.
2. Did the software help the user in understanding a concept?
3. Were the children able to understand how to use the software in order to find answers to their design questions?  

Phase 2:

Creation of a case library for students-

After analyzing the available data, we realized that providing real world stories (videos, simulations, etc.) to the children while they were building things, clarified a lot of their doubts in a much better way and also helped them build a very good mental model of the task. These stories or Cases discussed design problems faced by other people while designing similar artifacts and possible ways of solving those problems. They were able to draw abstractions from these stories and make necessary changes in their mini-hovercraft design. Hence, we decided to build a Case Library that will be integrated with the existing software so that the children can refer to the examples as and when they need during their design process.

Design and Development of Case Library
Duration: 9 weeks
Collaborators: Ganesh Bhat, Jim Perkins
Users: Middle school students
Methodology: Brainstorming, Generating requirements document, Wireframes, Data and Process flow charts, Interface Design, Low fidelity Prototypes, Flash & PHP modules, Database integration

Design Decisions:

Design of this library involved multiple iterations since it was essential to find a common ground between User-Centered Design and Learner-Centered design. Our target users were middle school students, hence our design decisions were taken keeping their browsing behavior and teaching requirements in mind. Some of the design decisions are highlighted here -

1. Drop-down menus v/s individual buttons for every available functionality: While buttons increase cluttering, drop-down menus hide available options and may not be seen by the students. We finally selected the drop-down menu as it was the best possible way to display long texts and also reduced cluttering. To prevent the students from overlooking the drop-down menu, it was placed on the top-left corner so that it was the first thing that the students saw on that page.
2. Learning theories: Research has shown that radio buttons are not effective for educational purposes. Hence we avoided their use in our software.
3. Recognition rather than recall: In order to minimize the cognitive load of the student, we decided to make all the available links, interactive animations, and explanation content clearly visible. At the same time we took care not to "spoon-feed" the student and  developed the explanation content carefully.
4. Consistency: All the cases have the same layout so that the student knows where to navigate to in order to find information.
5. Learnability:  Absence of complex functionalities and use of standard components like buttons and drop-downs minimizes the learning curve.
6. Readability: Contrasting colors, optimal font size, and  adequate white space improves the readability of the content.


Social Learning of Object Affordances in robots - guided by Dr. Andrea Thomaz

Duration: 5 weeks
Collaborator: Maya Cakmak
Users: No restriction
Methodology: Literature review, Brainstorming, User Observation, Video data logging, Interview, Questionnaire.

In this Human-Robot Interaction project we studied the role of a social partner in learning affordances. We used an upper torso humanoid having 8 degrees of freedom (created out of parts from the Bioloid Robotics Kit) for this project. The context of the study was that Bioloid try to learn the affordances of objects by playing with them. It was to do this under two different conditions: social and non-social. In the first case, it interacted with a teacher who had control on the objects with which Bioloid was playing with. In the second case,  Bioloid had no teacher and it had to learn by itself. We compared the differences in learning under the two conditions and investigated the ways people tried to teach object affordances to a robot.

Result: Learning with and without teacher are different but both scenarios afford unique learning opportunities and have their own set of advantages. In social learning, i.e. when people (or teacher) make things happen, learning progresses at a faster pace as compared to non-social learning. 


Investigating age-related differences in the effect of robot emotions on attitudes - guided by Dr. Dan Fisk and Dr. Wendy Rogers

Duration: 6 weeks
Collaborator: Jenay Beer
Users: Younger / Older adults
Methodology: User Observation, Questionnaire, User interaction data log, Heuristic Evaluation

This project investigated the effect of robot "emotions" on attitudes by measuring the performance of younger and older adults in a lego-building task. We used iCat to assess (via questionnaire) the effect of robot "emotions" on the participants attitudes toward the robot.

I programmed the iCat to express various emotions and developed an interface that helped gather the relevant user data during the study.

Aware Chair - guided by Dr. Melody M. Jackson

Duration: 2 weeks
Collaborator: None
Methodology: Literature review, Semi-structured interviews.

The Aware Chair (in the Brain Research Lab)  integrates research in Direct Brain Interfaces with intelligent, content-aware communication, environmental control, and navigation systems that will make brain signal control easier for people with severe physical disabilities.

I studied existing environments and controls which could be used with a powered obstacle avoidance wheel-chair.

Tackling Childhood Obesity with Technology (collaboration with CNN) - guided by Dr. Bruce Walker

Duration: 15 weeks
Collaborators: Michael Novitzky, Anya Kogan, Hyungsin Kim, Carol Kinstle (Head of the Medical Unit, CNN)
Users: 7 - 11 years old
Methodology: Brainstorming, Task analysis, Personas, Scenarios, Interviews,  User Observation, Questionnaire, Heuristic evaluation, Post-task walkthroughs.

This semester long project addressed the widespread problem of obesity in children. The best ways to help children attain and maintain a healthy weight is through physical activity and nutritious eating habits. Our team came up with three very diverse design alternatives that directly addresses at least one of these issues. Finally, we prototyped and user tested one of the designs.

Family Message Center
- guided by Dr. Bruce Walker

Duration: 2 weeks
Collaborator: None
Users: 10 - 80 years old (including visually impaired and hearing impaired people)
Methodology: Wireframes, Personas, Scenarios, Cognitive walkthrough, Heuristic evaluation

The idea behind this project was to develop a message center that could be used by a busy family to communicate, across time and across space. Some questions answered by this design include location of the device in the house, remote access,  type of messaging supported and modalities & interactions needed to support the requirement.

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