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AZ Tech Beat | February 19, 2017

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Science Approach’s iPad app to teach neuroscience, decision making to students

Science Approach’s iPad app to teach neuroscience, decision making to students
Christina O'Haver

A small business in Tucson, Ariz. is developing a prototype for an iPad app to help middle school students understand how the decisions they make can impact their developing brains.

Science Approach, LLC received a $500,000 grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to complete the first of three phases for the “VoxelDiscovery 5-8” app, said project director and Science Approach CEO Steven Moore, Ph.D. 

The first phase includes building the prototype and meeting with middle school students to gather their input regarding design elements that would make the app more appealing to them.

If the app proves feasible, the e-learning company will be able to apply for an additional round of funding as part of the second phase and commercialize the app in the third phase.

Science Approach is also collaborating with middle school teachers nationwide and students participating in the Upward Bound program at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus in Tucson to develop the app.

A thin slice of a rat's hippocampus shows the presence of many newly born neurons (stained brown), which is consistent with the effects of exercise and social living conditions. The rat lived in a group housing situation with access to a running wheel.

Science Approach, which was incorporated in 2002 and specializes in creating educational e-laboratories consisting of visualization and computational tools, will equip the app with images provided by neuroscientists (pictured left).

Students, specifically from grades five to eight, will be able to study the images and understand the effects that exercise, socialization, alcohol consumption and other actions have on brain development, structure and function.

“We work with researchers and have access to their research and data, and we can make that available to students,” Dr. Moore said.

He added that data visualization is one of the key elements of the app along with the collaboration capabilities.

After students study the images, they will be able to share their data by submitting it to a central database, graphing it, and presenting it to their peers and teachers for discussion.

“It will empower them to become lifelong learners who use 21st century visualization, analysis and communication technologies to conduct science on their own and apply what they have learned to everyday life,” Dr. Moore said.

He expects the free app to be released in less than two years and said it will be available nationwide through Apple’s app store.