Achievements Made by Project Team Members

This section contains information on various achievements made by project members including successful grants, awards, research fellowships, published papers, and presentations in a conference or symposium.

  • 2 undergraduate students (Gioia and Anna) were selected for 2024 CURO Summer Fellowships (\$3,000 each).
  • 4 undergraduate students (Ridwan, Emre, Gioia, and Maxwell) were selected for 2024 Spring CURO research awards.
  • Enhancing Astronomy Education: Demonstrating Astronomical Phenomena using Immersive 3D Learning Experiences, Robin Allen, David Seiden, Nandana Weliweriya, Inseok Song, 90th Annual Meeting of the APS Southeastern Section, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY, November 9 -11, 2023. Link
  • Re-Engineer the Way We Introduce Introductory-Level STEM Lab Activities, Robin Allen, Nandana Weliweriya, Conference: USG Teaching & Learning Conference, March 2023. link
  • Laboratory Instruction Enhancement: Utilizing QR Codes and Digital Resources in Introductory STEM Courses, David Seiden, Robin Allen, Nandana Weliweriya, 90th Annual Meeting of the APS Southeastern Section, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY, November 9 -11, 2023. Link
  • Integrating Well-Aligned Pre-Lecture Videos in Student-Centered Large Enrollment Undergraduate Physics Courses.“, Morgan Pickett, David Jacob Seiden, Michael Cai, Nandana Weliweriya, Shameer Abdeen, Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) Symposium, The University of Georgia, 2023. Link

UGA CURO Symposium Abstracts

3-D Astronomy Simulations for Learning

by Ridwan Haque and Emre Aliya

Teaching astronomy poses formidable challenges as students often struggle to visualize and grasp complex astronomical concepts, and conventional teaching approaches frequently fail to engage students effectively, resulting in persistent misconceptions about some astrophysical phenomena. To overcome these obstacles and foster deeper student engagement and comprehension, we are developing a series of innovative 3D simulations characterized by their scientific accuracy, immersive nature, visual appeal, and modular design. Our approach combines cutting-edge 3-D modeling engines such as Blender, Unreal Engine, and Unity to construct a lifelike simulation of the solar system and night sky encompassing phenomena like Eclipses, Tides, Parallax, and Seasonal Constellations. Drawing on planetary models and data sourced from NASA's VTAD, our simulation currently provides a functional model with plans for further refinement, including enhancements to features such as illumination phases of objects, shadow movements, atmospheric effects, and the accurate Earth-Moon-Sun System. Collaborating closely with instructors of courses such as ASTR1010, ASTR1110, and ASTR2030L, we intend to assess the efficacy of our 3D simulations through think-aloud interviews to solicit invaluable feedback. Future enhancements will involve the implementation of the fine control of the simulations through Python scripts and interactive GUI elements like an observation time selector, customizable lighting settings, and a set of different viewing cameras for real-time data visualization. Furthermore, we aim to broaden the accessibility of our simulation by integrating it into various virtual reality platforms, including the META Quest 3D.


The Best Software for Creating STEM Simulations

by Maxwell Martin Baxley

The research project that I am working on, at this moment and in the future, is called STEMin3D. It is a collaborative effort between the UGA Physics & Astronomy Department, College of Engineering, College of Veterinary Medicine, and GSU Physics & Astronomy Department. Spearheaded by Dr. Weliweriya and Dr. Song, its goal is to enhance learning with 3D simulations. We will create both interactive and non-interactive simulations of topics like the diurnal motion of celestial bodies, eclipses, and many others. Though our focus is mainly on astronomical topics at the moment, future plans include other STEM departments. We believe that VR is an emerging technology with the potential to overcome the limitations of traditional labs and drastically improve students' understanding of abstract and esoteric topics.

These simulations can be 3D mobile or desktop simulations that could be assigned as homework or an in-class activity. By simply putting up a QR code that students can scan in class, you give them the ability to interact with the material and have a deeper understanding of any given topic. We will also include AR capabilities for smartphones. We plan to make interactive VR simulations that could be assigned as a lab. Eventually, we plan to share these simulations with other educators outside of the UGA system.

Currently, I am working on analyzing as many software programs as I can to see which engines are the most viable for our projects. I have compiled a list of many engines (such as Unity, Unreal 5, etc) along with notes and recommendations for each. Once that is complete and we finalize our plans and team, we will begin creating these simulations. The plan is for groups of students to work together to get the simulations done. Once a simulation is completed, we will work with professors to implement them in classrooms. This will be an ongoing project with near-endless applications. We expect to consistently create new STEM simulations for at least a few years to come.


The Role of Storyboard Design in the Development of 3-D STEM Educational Simulations

by Gioia Ann Zincone

In an age where digital media is increasingly relevant and necessary in learning environments, it is important that factual and curated educational resources are accessible for educators and students. Three-dimensional simulations that can be utilized with virtual reality technology are a strong and quickly developing method of teaching astrophysical topics. These models are accurate, interactive, and captivating tools that can aid in student engagement and comprehension beyond the limits of traditional two-dimensional illustrations. The creation of a storyboard is an essential first step in the process of simulation development and such templates are a means of ensuring that the production of these models can be streamlined and reflective of relevant learning objectives. The procedure for this includes research of the particular topic, designing scenes that portray the necessary information, and collaborating with educators and simulation builders to ensure accuracy and optimization. Our goal for this project was to design a preliminary storyboard that explains the concept of seasons and seasonal constellations. This initial outline will be used as the basis for simulation creation going forward and will also act as the precedent for similar projects in the future. The procedure, methods, and development progress updates are collected within a GitHub repository and serve as an important resource for current and future research assistants. On a long-term scale, the animatic form of this storyboard will be an important tool for connecting with educators who aim to use the simulation in the classroom, as it illustrates the content and purpose in an accelerated and efficient manner.


Anna-Sophia Dmitrieff Mehta Accessibility in STEM Education through Low-Cost & Self-Assembly Telescopes

Noah Scott Burns Integrating Augmented Reality (AR) into Inherently 3D Physics