The University of North Texas has collaborated with the Research and Learning Center (RLC) at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (FWMSH) since the RLC’s establishment by Dr. Debbie Cockerham in 2012. The RLC brings cutting-edge science to the Museum. As researchers conduct their active studies in the RLC, Museum guests can engage in the scientific discovery process by participating in current research studies, talking with the scientists and learning how the research impacts their day-to-day lives. RLC is based on the Living Laboratory®, developed at the Museum of Science, Boston, with support from the National Science Foundation (see livinglab.org)
Find your way to be creative in virtual reality!
Is creativity important? With the highly developed technologies around us today, more and more humans are being replaced by robots in the workplace. We may think that human thinking and creativity is not needed anymore. But there is at least one thing that humans do better than machines: CREATE! ARE YOU CREATIVE? Most people don’t know for sure. In this study, You will be designing a wearable device in virtual reality and will get sound feedback from brainwaves. This study will increase our understanding of how creativity can be developed.
This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and Mike Yang, visiting research scholar at the University of North Texas. Read the findings of this study at:
Yang, X., Cheng, P.-Y., Lin, L., Huang, Y. M., & Ren, Y. (2018). Can an Integrated System of Electroencephalography and Virtual Reality Further the Understanding of Relationships Between Attention, Meditation, Flow State, and Creativity? Journal of Educational Computing Research, 0735633118770800. Yang, X., Lin, L., Cheng, P.-Y., Yang, X., Ren, Y., & Huang, Y.-M.(2018). Examining creativity through a virtual reality support system. Educational Technology Research and Development, 66(5), 1231-1254.
Does our productivity increase when we multitask?
Do 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. Read about the findings of this study at:
Lin, L., Cockerham, D., Chang, Z., & Natividad, G. (2016). Task speed and accuracy decrease when multitasking. Technology, knowledge and learning, 21(3), 307-323.
Parent-child relationships: What can we learn from an Etch-a-Sketch?
Parents and children alike know that, when working on a frustrating task, cooperation can be hard! Factors that lead to family cooperation are unknown. For this study, parents and children will play together on an etch-a-sketch. The parent will hold one knob and the child will hold the other knob, to create a basic picture. Parent feedback on the experience will help researchers to examine behaviors that promote greater understanding of parent-child relationships. This study will help us learn more about the ways that parents and children respond to challenging situations. We hope to further the scientific understanding of factors that can lead to positive parent-child relationships.
This study is a collaboration between the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and the UNT Contextual Psychology group.
Do our spatial skills impact our reasoning abilities?
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 problem solving. The purpose of this study is to explore the spatial reasoning skills needed to solve problems. Participants will be asked to use wooden cubes to complete a shape discovery task, and researchers will observe the use of spatial skills. This study can help educators better understand the spatial processing subskills that are needed in basic reasoning tasks.
This study is a collaboration between Dr. Rose Baker and Scott Mavers, University of North Texas, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
Which material is the strongest?
How many people can safely ride in one elevator? An understanding of the number of pounds that the elevator’s building material can support is important in its design. In like manner, determining the strength of any construction material and the impact of real world forces upon it is essential when transporting items, designing more efficient buildings, or testing the strength of various structures. This study considers how the strength of a construction material determines its usability. Each participant will be asked to verbally answer three questions to measure his interest in STEM. He will then be shown a demonstration of a biomechanical device for teaching material science, and will be reassessed for his interest in science. Participant responses will help researchers determine if the biomechanical device demonstration can increase student interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.
This study is a collaboration between Dr. Rita Patterson, professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. Read the findings of this study at:
Patterson, R.M., Bartoletti, R., Chou, D.P., Dignam, J.J., and Vaidyanathan, V., Use of an Educational Tool Kit to Teach Mechanics of Materials, Summer Biomechanics, Bioengineering, and Biotransport Conference, Tucson, AZ, June 20-25, 2017
Fast, slow, high, low: What musical elements 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? Our previous studies showed that a significant number of individuals had stronger productivity on a simple mental task when listening to Cuban dance music than when working in silence. What ingredients in the Cuban dance selection helped to stimulate the increased productivity? In this study, we will compare four different combinations of pitch and tempo in an attempt to determine what musical factors may influence productivity. Participants will complete a simple mental task during four different musical conditions: (1) high pitch, fast tempo; (2) high pitch, slow tempo; (3) low pitch, fast tempo; (4) low pitch, slow tempo. 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.
How does vision help your balance?
If you are standing up while you read this information, you are using balance! Balance helps us stand and move around without falling down. Have you ever noticed that it is harder to balance when your eyes are closed? That’s because our eyes help our brains to know where we are in space, so that our brains can tell our body how to move. Some people have a harder time balancing than others do. Scientists don’t know if that is because of how their brains control their bodies, or how their brains interpret what their eyes see. This study will test the role of vision in postural control. Participants will stand on a platform and balance while standing still or leaning. The study will help in understanding how people use vision to help attain balance, and whether those with Autism Spectrum Disorder use vision differently than typically developing people.
Family game play and problem solving: Does technology change our roles?
When solving problems collaboratively, children have traditionally listened more to their adults' suggestions, showing less power but more compliance. However, technology may be changing these family dynamics. In today’s digital world, children are likely to be the technology “experts”, and are often both more literate and more confident in digital skills than adults. As technology becomes increasingly integrated into family life, are the dynamics of family decision making changing? In this study, intergenerational participants will have the option of racing against each other or working as a team to master an online problem-solving game. The study will look at the influence of technology on our family collaborations.
This study is a collaboration between Zhengsi Chang, University of Texas at Dallas, Dr. Lin Lin, University of North Texas, and the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History.
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? This 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?
Have 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 the MBE Lab 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? This 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. Read about some of the study findings:
Zhang, T., & Li, H. (2018). Digital video and self modelling in the physical education classroom. Jeroen Koekoek & Ivo van Hilvoorde (Eds.), Digital Technology in Physical Education: Global Perspectives, 19-31. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781351336970/chapters/10.4324%2F9780203704011-11
ARE YOU SURE? 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.
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 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.
For more information, please visit https://www.fwmuseum.org/learn/research-and-learning-center/