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How does the human mind navigate large information networks?

Are humans better than machines at finding the shortest paths in information networks?
Although faced with huge amounts of information, humans are generally good at “connecting the dots” between concepts in information networks. However, research indicates that even machines that do not possess any background knowledge (like humans do) are able to find shorter paths than humans between concepts in information networks. 

This study aims to compare automatic vs. human navigation in the Wikipedia network of concepts.  We will record the number of clicks (i.e., the length of the path) needed by a participant to reach a target concept starting from a source concept. For two concepts, the number of clicks by humans and by machines will be compared to determine similarities and differences between automatic vs. human navigation.

This study is a collaboration between Dr. Cornelia Caragea, assistant professor at the University of North Texas, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.


Do it yourself:  3D printing
Did you know that there are 3D printers that can build 3D models of just about anything from toys, jewelry, food and even organs; and it all starts with math, science and engineering?

3D Printing imageThis study will introduce the concept of 3D printers and their use, with the aim of introducing children and adults to the fun and practicality of math, science and engineering.

Stop by 3D printing exhibit and see a 3D printer in action, from the design of a product using computer aided design (CAD) software, to the printing process, a layer by layer melting of plastic into the 3D shape of the final product. See firsthand the future of rapid prototype and customizable fabrication capable of making any virtual model into a real life object.

This study is a collaboration between Dr. Yuankun Lin, associate professor at the University of North Texas, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.


Do we remember better when we take pictures?

RLC imageHave you taken a photo today?  If so, you’re not alone. Yahoo estimates that approximately 880 trillion photos will be taken this year.  From vacation sites to restaurant meals to selfies, the everyday details of our lives are documented through the convenience of digital devices.  Do these photos strengthen our recall of everyday events? 

This study will investigate whether photographing objects affects our memories.  Participants will photograph specific museum items, and will then be asked to recall information about those objects.  This study will underscore differences between human memory and the camera’s “memory”, and will provide insight into the influence that taking photos can have on our memories.

This study is a collaboration between Dr. Lin Lin, University of North Texas, the MBE Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.


RLC - math and logic

How do skills of logic influence early math learning?
Using logic is like following the rules of a game.  In both, reasonable decisions are based on a set of rules that are pattern-based and consistently applied. Skills of logic are needed to solve problems in the classroom and at home.

When does a child begin to demonstrate each of these logical skill sets? Is one skill dependent upon the mastery of another? Are logic and reasoning skills developmentally ordered?  In this study, researchers will observe the logical skill sets that children use in playing a game.  This study will help parents and educators understand the development of reasoning skills and the impact of these skills upon the learning of mathematical concepts.

This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the MBE Lab  at the University of Texas at Arlington.


Can a child’s innate number sense predict his success on more complex math tasks?
RLC imageResearch shows that children have an approximate number system which allows them to estimate and mentally manipulate the approximate number of items within a set. Can a measure of a person’s approximate number system predict his success on a more complex math game?

 

This study will analyze children’s approximate number systems, or numerosity skills, within in the context of a game.  After a child’s approximate number system skills are measured, he will be challenged to apply his numerosity skills in playing a more difficult math game.  Results of the study will help educators better understand the role of the approximate number system in complex math problems.

This study is a collaboration between Dr. Evie Malaia, assistant professor at  the University of Texas at Arlington, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.


Does playing video games help make us healthier and smarter?

Does your child play video games? Are you concerned about your child playing video games and their health, intelligence, and happiness?

RLC imageThis study aims to examine the relationship between health, well-being, physically interactive video games, and cognitive function among children. All children will be invited to play the Dance video games. Body composition assessment (height, weight, and skin fold measurements) will be provided for younger children, while older children will have the opportunity to self-report their perceptions of interactive video games. Parent feedback will supplement information on a child’s cognitive functions. Researchers will be available onsite to answer any questions that parents may have related to their children’s health and learning. Results of this study will be compiled to provide insight into potential relationships between physically interactive video games and children’s physical or cognitive well-being.

This study is a collaboration between Dr. Xiangli Gu, Dr. Lin Lin, and Dr. Tao Zhang of University of North Texas and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.


ARE YOU SURE?

RLC - thinker

Investigating the brain’s memory network
Human memory can be puzzling. Why do we remember some things and not others? Do we recall items listed first or last better than those in between?  How do our brains organize memories?   How accurate are our memories?

In working to answer questions such as these, researchers have theorized that our memories are organized in networks (see example below). As stored information is accessed, it is connected with related concepts to establish meaning. This study will focus on order a nd accuracy in memory through simple listening and recall activities. Modeled after the work of three distinguished psychologists*, the study aims to enhance understanding of our neural memory network.

RLC image

This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the MBE Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington.

*Deese, J.  (1959).  On the prediction of the occurrence of particular verbal intrusions in immediate recall.  Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58, 17-22.

*Roediger, H., and McDermott, K.  (1995).  Creating false memories:  remembering words not presented in lists.  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21, 803-814.


NUmber Sense

How does number sense impact our problem solving performance?

Number sense, the ability to use and understand numbers when counting, measuring, or estimating, appears to be a critical factor in learning new math skills. However, the underlying role of number sense in math problem solving remains unclear.

Our experiment is focused on the basic number sense that children use in solving math problems.  As children play a card game in which they mentally combine groups of shapes to total ten shapes, both their skills and their strategies will be observed.  This study can help educators better understand the impact of number sense upon problem solving performance.

This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the MBE Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington.


Does a child’s ability to focus differ in symbolic vs. non-symbolic number representation?
NumerosityNumerosity, the ability to discriminate between  quantities in groups of objects, appears to be an innate math skill, and has even been observed in infants. As children progress in number skills, numerosity transfers from non-symbolic to symbolic representations of number.

 

Does a child maintain the same level of attention when the number task becomes symbolic?  In this study, researchers will observe children comparing quantities. As the mode of presentation changes from non-symbolic to symbolic, the child’s ability to maintain attention will be observed. This study can help increase educator awareness of number symbol interpretation and its impact upon math learning.

This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and Dr. Evie Malaia, assistant professor of Mind, Brain and Education  at the University of Texas at Arlington.


Can your listening environment impact your task performance?
Many people listen to music or watch TV while they work or study.  Does the music help them do better work?  Some researchers argue that auditory input helps a person ignore distractions around him or that the “digital generation” requires multiple stimuli to stay focused.  Other scientists claim that music is a distraction that lowers the quality of work.

The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of the listening environment during a simple mental task.  Participants will complete a simple mental task during four different auditory conditions:  silence, white noise, and two different musical selections.  Results will be compared between conditions, and each participant will be able to determine if the listening environment has affected his/her own task performance.

This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and Dr. Lin Lin, University of North Texas.   The study is conducted in conjunction with the MBE Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington and Deborah Edwards, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.


Interactions with a Robot: Zeno, Interactive Robotic Partner for Autism Spectrum Disorders
ZenoUT Arlington Electrical Engineering Professor Dr. Dan Popa and his Next Generation Group conduct research on new and improved multiscale robots that are increasingly small, integrated, and networked.  Dr. Popa and his team work to design and produce robots that are inexpensive, user-friendly, and interactive.

Zeno, a two-foot tall, child-like robot, was built to function as a human-robot interactive system with the goal of assisting with the diagnoses of early stage Autism Spectrum Disorder in children. Zeno is able to mimic the actions and facial expressions of individuals who stand in front of an Xbox Kinect.  As the robot smiles, blinks, and waves at participants, he can both diagnose social skill needs and provide training for social skill deficits. 

Read about Dr. Popa and Zeno at http://www.uta.edu/ee/ngs/?p=314.


Does our productivitiy increase when we multitask?
RLC - multitaskingDo you get more done when you multitask? It may depend on the task.  Although you can probably walk and chew gum at the same time, the brain appears to have a limited amount of space for tasks requiring attention.  Research indicates that brain efficiency may decrease when a person attempts two demanding tasks at the same time. 

 

This study aims to compare the productivity of working on a single task with that of attempting two tasks at the same time.  Both time and accuracy will be measured as participants complete an auditory task, a visual task, and a combination of the two. Results will be compared between conditions, and each participant will be able to determine if multitasking affected his/her own productivity.

This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and Dr. Lin Lin, University of North Texas.


 Can online assessments empower parents and teachers to Improve early math education?

 RLC - ChildMany people believe that all children arrive in kindergarten equally ready to learn. Decades of research tell a different story, however. In math, for example, some kindergarteners arrive with what researchers call “number sense” – an intuitive understanding of numbers – that other children lack.  And this early difference can strongly influence children’s success in school and later life.

Research has shown that every child can develop number sense with intentional, systematic, and individual support. As with reading, however, early detection and intervention are essential. Currently, many schools fail to assess and develop each child’s number sense effectively.

The purpose of this study is to explore the feasibility of putting a rapid, easy-to-use number sense assessment into the hands of parents and teachers to empower them to make better decisions about their children’s early math education. Children complete the web-based assessment using an iPad to engage in a series of number-related activities: identifying, comparing, ordering, and counting.

As participants in this study, children engage in a variety of number-related activities on an iPad, including number identification, comparison, ordering, and counting. Investigators observe what makes the assessment easy or challenging for children to use and take notes on how we might improve it.  Parents can review their children’s number sense assessment results.

Research shows that number sense is important and even points the way to teaching it effectively; this study will help us provide parents and teachers with tools they can use to better understand and support every child’s success in elementary math.

This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and Dr. Michael W. Connell.  Dr. Connell is CEO of Native Brain, whose mission is to help every child succeed in math from pre-school through algebra. Read more at www.nativebrain.com or theeducationscientist.blogspot.com.


Do our spatial skills influence our reasoning abilities?
spatial reasoningWhen children play with blocks, they may be developing more than just creative structures.  Research suggests that developing the ability to understand and mentally manipulate spatial information is foundational to basic reasoning tasks and mathematical problem solving. Do our spatial skills influence our reasoning abilities?  This study will examine the role of spatial abilities in children’s mathematical problem solving.

The purpose of this study is to explore spatial reasoning skills.  Participants will be asked to stack transparent cards in an order that aligns all circles and dots, and researchers will observe the use of spatial skills. This study can help parents and educators better understand the spatial processing subskills that are needed in basic reasoning tasks.

This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and Dr. Evie Malaia, assistant professor in the MBE Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington.


How does spatial information impact our problem solving skills?
Traditional mathematics instruction addresses problem solving through the use of arithmetic and calculation. Spatial processing skills are not typically an area of focus for problem solving in the math classroom, but research suggests that strong spatial skills may be related to  increased problem solving ability. This study will examine the role of spatial abilities in children’s mathematical pspatial processingroblem solving. 

The purpose of this study is to explore the spatial processing skills needed to solve problems. Participants will be freely exploring the game Knot So Fast while researchers observe participant behavior and use of spatial processing skills. This study can help adults better understand how children use spatial information to solve problems.

This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and Dr. Evie Malaia, assistant professor in the University of Texas at Arlington MBE Lab.


Fun Fact

The OMNI sound system has 50 speakers, driven by 8 amplifiers that produce over 24,000 watts of sound through 6 channels and a giant sub-bass stack to give the audience that “you are there” feeling.

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