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Biology in the Palm of Your Hand
Powers of Minus Ten (POMT) is an innovative app that brings the user into microscopic 3-D worlds — worlds constructed based off of actual scientific data and imagery. The program engages students in free exploration as well as guided study through timed mini-games and other content-dependant activities.
Credit: Laura Lynn Gonzalez, Green-Eye Visualization, LLC

This Research in Action article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

As students become more tech-savvy, more dependent on round-the-clock access to far-flung places and limitless information, more used to instant feedback and more charmed by graphically-rich, interactive entertainment in their home lives, the traditional methodologies of lecture, quiz, grade and repeat become less and less relevant (if they were ever truly successful).

Such methodologies are eclipsed by the wide world of vivid, engaging, high-tech possibilities available beyond the classroom walls.

Seeing that, in today's science classroom, there was a lack of high-tech solutions based on contemporary scientific research, my company, Green-Eye Visualization, pursued and was awarded an NSF Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop and evaluate an interactive, contextual learning tool suitable for 21st century education.

The research was inspired in part by the seminal film by Ray and Charles Eames, "Powers of Ten," which depicts the relative scale of the universe in factors of ten. The resulting software, Powers of Minus Ten (POMT) is an innovative app that brings the user into microscopic 3-D worlds —worlds constructed based off of actual scientific data and imagery. The program engages students in free exploration as well as guided study through timed mini-games and other content-dependant activities.

I think that there is a strong potential for apps like POMT to revolutionize the way biology is taught to students. Initial studies on the effectiveness of POMT as an educational tool are promising. After just 12 minutes of play, certain groups of students demonstrated significant learning gains in their biology content knowledge. Perhaps most importantly, many students reported being more interested in science after playing POMT.

Future versions of POMT will be expanded to encompass other subjects including physics and chemistry, allowing users to further explore the relationship of scale in new microscopic worlds, from the human level down to the nanoscale.

You can play a live demo here.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the Research in Action archive.