SBIR Phase I: Enhancing STEM Education via Virtual Reality Medical Simulation

Period of Performance: 12/15/2016 - 05/31/2017


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Simquest, LLC
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


This project will explore how surgical simulation development technology may be applied to K-12 STEM education. We will develop a digital dissection based on a complete simulation of an animal specimen complete with an immersive environment, haptic feel, and accurate tissue properties. The proposed system will have the advantage of being reusable, not incurring recurring costs, being aseptic, safer (no scalpel blades), and being available at all times, thus facilitating repeated practice. Enhancing high school STEM benefits students and aligns with national efforts to attract and retain students in STEM education. This project will draw students into a comprehensive STEM experience, allowing them to hone skills such as surgical technique and painlessly introduce career options to students that may not have been considered previously. At minimum, this project gives early direct exposure to medical careers. In addition, it has the potential to reduce the use of animals for training. The project goal is to significantly increase the ability of the real-time finite element analysis in the simulator system to enhance/extend classroom education by creating new experiences that today are limited to specialized professional-level training. It will apply the same realistic interface, e.g., with a look and feel that mimics real life, of high fidelity simulators used to train surgeons, to the high school biology classroom. This will enable students to perform animal dissections without using animals, in an environment that offers not only an analogous learning experience but one that teaches proper technique, allows mistakes to be made and corrected, and allows practice to established standards of proficiency. The simulator system can simulate 1-, 2-, and 3D tissue physics; replicate properties of body tissues; and connect to interface devices such as haptic systems and virtual reality (VR) displays. Aim 1 will add broader computation capability to the simulator system, extending the types of scenarios it can support. Aim 2 will create a real-time, physics-based virtual animal dissection simulator equipped with world-class haptics technology. Aim 3 will entail working with educational experts to ensure alignment with the STEM curriculum. The long-term vision encompasses a broad application in which students create computer simulations/scenarios on their own using tailored versions of the system.