Virtual Science Labs

The Mind Project offers immersive online virtual experiences that capture students' imagination. All over virtual labs were designed for use in both college and high school classrooms. Some of these have even been used successfully in middle school. Included among the challenges that confront students in these labs are: real-life scientific mysteries to be solved, experimental questions to be answered by well-designed studies, and the implementation of state-of-the-art medical procedures, and much more. There are immersive labs in three main ares: Neuroscience, AI & robotics, and Cognitive Psychology. Most of the labs are appropriate at both the college and high school level, although some of the labs are more challenging than others.

 


Our Most Popular Immersive Virtual Labs


VIRTUAL NEUROSCIENCE LABS


Below are three immersive neuroscience labs. In the first two, students become neurobiologists doing research on rats. In both, they implant electrodes into a rat's brain so as to monitor dopamine levels. In the first, dopamine levels are monitored in a rat that self-administers cocaine with important discoveries made about the nature of addiction. In the second, rats who have lost many dopamine neurons (similar to Parkinson's patients) are monitored as students gather data to help them evaluate competing theories that attempt to explain the brain mechanisms that produce the motor deficits in Parkinson's patients. The second lab (on Parkinson's) is more sophisticated than the first one and allows the students to be more directly involved in implanting the electrodes into the rat's brain, though it does take students longer to do. In the third lab, students are not researchers but are endovascular neuroradiologists who are confronted with a patient in an emergency room having a stroke and they must perform a "coiling procedure" as therapy for an aneurysm.


Virtual Neuroscience Lab #1: Cocaine Study

Virtual Cocaine Lab Until recently, it was thought that dopamine was only associated with the brain's reward system. Recent experiments have shown that dopamine plays a role in reward seeking behavior as well as the consuming stage. The user becomes a neurobiologist and performs an experiment to study this issue by implanting electrodes in a rat's brain, monitoring dopamine level as the rat self-administers cocaine, and interpreting the data.

Virtual Neuroscience Lab #2: Parkinson's Study

Virtual Cocaine Lab The death of dopamine neurons produces a loss of normal motor function. Surprisingly, a Parkinson's patient can lose 80% of her dopamine neurons before symptoms are evident. The student becomes a neurobiologist implanting an electrode into a rat's brain, measuring dopamine levels to test two competing theories that seek to explain how the body "compensates" for the loss of neurons.

Virtual Stroke Lab

Virtual Cocaine Lab Students become a neuroradiologist in an emergency room with a possible stroke victim awaiting diagnosis. They consult the patient's history, check risk factors for stroke, perform diagnostic tests and discover the patient has an aneurysm, leading to the selected therapy -- which is to perform a "coiling procedure." Students learn about different types of strokes, their risk factors, symptoms, causes and treatments.

 


VIRTUAL ROBOTICS LABS


One of the best ways to learn about the nature of robotics is to begin by learning about two of the most influential "models" for producing machine intelligence. One model for producing an intelligent machine is to equip it with a computer-brain and computational states that function as "beliefs" and "desires". Sensors generate "beliefs" about the state of the world and the machine behaves so as to achieve its goals. This is the "top-down" approach. The alternative is to build robots on the model of simple insects, which don't have big brains but produce intelligent behavior with a relatively small number of "behaviors" -- rank-ordered in priority to produce intelligent behavior. Build both kinds of robots . . and much more in our modules below.


Virtual Robotics Lab ("Top-Down")

Virtual Robotics Lab ( Users build and program a mobile robot -- assembling all physical components of the robot, constructing a robotic arm, writing scripts to direct the arm to pick up a Coke bottle, writing scripts to steer the robot's wheels to the activity table, loading "beliefs" into the main AI engine (ProtoThinker), and watching the Iris.4 robot move through the lab, recycle the Coke bottle (because in its "language of thought," it is a committed environmentalist).

Virtual Behavior-based (or "Bottom-up") Robotics Lab

Virtual Cocaine Lab In contrast to "top-down" robotic architectures, behavior-based (or "bottom-up") robotic design does not equip the robot with anything like a "mind" (with beliefs and desires) but instead uses very little computational power and gives it instead a relatively small number of stimulus-response mechanisms, each by itself just a stupid behavior. But if you can create the right "hierarchy" -- giving each behavior the right rank-ordered priority, you get intelligent behavior. Observe, design & test your own robots.

Introduction to Robotics (with Virtual Labs & Medical Robots)

Virtual Cocaine Lab This "Introduction to Robotics" has integrated many of The Mind Project's modules on AI and robotics into a general introduction that focuses attention on a broad range of different robot-types and shows how they are currently being used in the medical field. Effective use is made of images and videos, together with three separate virtual robotics labs -- including our two main stand-alone labs on "top-down" and "bottom-up" robotics.

   


VIRTUAL PSYCHOLOGY LABS


The next two labs, often used in cognitive psychology courses, are among the most impressive labs created with Mind Project grants and, unlike most of the labs on the previous list, these labs were created not by David Leech Anderson and his team at Illinois State University, but by Tom Busey and his team at Indiana University. We highly recommend the following two labs for use in your psychology or cognitive science course. Unlike our other labs, Busey's labs are genuinely "open-ended" and give students a great deal of freedom to design their own experiments. You will find other modules and labs created by the Indiana University team on the general "curriculum" link especially in the category "perception/vision." (NOTE: These labs do not reside on our server, we just link to them. They are on an Indiana University server.)


Virtual EEG Lab

Visual Search Lab There is nothing "virtual" about this EEG data. Brain responses from a large number of subjects was recorded while they viewed many different images. Group the pictures into categories, and run your own experiment. There are 2.3 x 10 ^ 216 (a really big number!) different ways to group these stimuli into the six categories; it's likely your own virtual experiment has never been run. Learn how the brain processes visual images.

Visual Search Lab

Visual Search Lab Students design their own visual search experiments, using their friends and/or becoming subjects in their own experiments. Looking for a friend in a crowd, searching for a four-leaf clover and finding an off-ramp exit sign are all examples of visual search in the real world. This program allows students to create their own visual search experiments to explore visual perception and memory phenomenon.