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ASU digital culture alumni release augmented reality education app


Photo of ASU student showing elementary school student how to use app.

Digital culture students test an app they developed. Photo by Leslie Easton

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June 07, 2019

Maureen van Dobben, Amy Rodriguez and Jordan Neel released a mobile application this week — one month after they all graduated with degrees in digital culture from Arizona State University's School of Arts, Media and Engineering.

LeARn is an educational app that uses augmented reality, and the team credits their success so far to opportunities ASU gave them to develop the app, including $3,000 in funding.

“We wanted to create this app because we all felt there are lots of interesting ways to use augmented reality in education specifically,” van Dobben said. “It's a really interesting field that is still emerging. Our mixed-reality project integrates augmented reality into the classroom to help young learners master fractions. In this instance, augmented reality helps students understand complex abstract concepts by creating a connection between the numerical form of the fraction and what that number actually represents.”

The team, along with fellow digital culture alum Ryan Black, spent the last year working on the app, which they first demonstrated in December 2018 as part of Arts, Media and Engineering’s Digital Culture Showcase that fall.

“It was the first time we demoed the project outside of our own team,” van Dobben said. “We received really useful feedback about usability, our design and even the practicality of this app.”

The team also competed in the yearlong ASU Research Enterprise’s Virtual Reality Innovation Challenge. After making it to the final round, they received $3,000 toward an equipment budget to finish developing the app.

“The ASURE funding was incredibly helpful for our development,” van Dobben said. “With it, we were able to purchase supplementary tools like a MacBook Pro, an iPad and an Android tablet.”

For the VR Innovation Challenge, participants submitted proposals to develop a use case into a novel and innovative system that utilizes virtual, cinematic, augmented or mixed reality to address and solve a real world problem. Through the course of the challenge, the team collaborated with Betsy Fowler and Leslie Easton of ASU Prep Digital to test the app with sixth, seventh and eight grade students at Garden Lakes Elementary School. According to their study, the students unanimously loved the app, mostly due to its engagement in being able to flip between different symbol representations.

All the finalists showcased their projects in April. The team said they received a lot of positive feedback, including from several people who already want them to expand beyond fractions to trigonometry.  

The app is now available on the GooglePlay store.

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