Skip to main content

Purdue Startup Turns Gameplay Into Serious STEM Learning During The Pandemic

Image credit: MindLabs platform by Explore Interactive, a Purdue University-affiliated startup. MindLabs combines the fun of tabletop card games with the excitement of AR, to provide a learning platform for a variety of STEM topics.

Explore Interactive, a Purdue University startup, is turning gameplay into serious learning for elementary students away from classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company markets an augmented reality platform to help students learn STEM. Its newest product, MindLabs, extends the foundational Explore Interactive platform to allow kids to collaborate remotely on engineering and design of circuits.

“In the current remote learning environment, MindLabs is a solution for teachers who have very limited options for students to engage collaboratively on STEM projects,” says Amanda Thompson, CEO of Explore Interactive.

Explore Interactive has worked with educators and elementary students from across the U.S. in the development of the MindLabs platform, which lets children work together with their peers and teachers, whether or not they are together in the same classroom, to solve hands-on STEM challenges and conduct open-ended design and play.

The platform unlocks the potential of AR to deliver analytics of soft skills like collaboration and hard skills like systems thinking through applied, hands-on design and troubleshooting. With MindLabs, students can progress through a series of challenges, or they can build their own unique circuits.

 Image credit: Explore Interactive, a Purdue University-affiliated startup. MindLabs allows to collaborate with others, remotely or in person, to learn fundamentals of energy and electrical circuits.

Now, the founders of the startup have partnered with the Museum of Science, Boston, and Homewood Science Center, located near Chicago, to host a virtual STEM camp. The virtual camp took place the first week of August for students 8-12 years of age. Thompson led virtual sessions and the students are to complete projects on their own.

Amanda Thompson, CEO of Explore Interactive, teaches a virtual STEM camp

MindLabs Energy and Circuits App
MindLabs Energy and Circuits, available on the App Store, is a STEM learning tool for students (grades 3rd through 6th).

By combining a digital app, physical cards, and augmented reality, players experience a fun and intuitive approach to learning about electrical energy.

The robot duo, Atom and Anne, guide students through a series of short lessons that teach the basics of energy and circuit concepts. Students can then tackle a number of challenges to help Atom and Anne fix broken circuits.

Students manipulate the physical cards in order to create correct circuits. They receive immediate feedback, using a mobile device and augmented reality. As students successfully learn new concepts, they “unlock” tools and components that can be used in the fun, open-ended “Create” mode. The resulting experimentation and troubleshooting help students to reinforce and remember important STEM concepts.