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Temples Virtual Lab Helps Disabled Students

Temple Engineering Professor's Virtual Electrical Laboratory Lends A Helping Hand To Students With Disabilities

Engineers and scientists spend countless hours learning in the classroom and poring over academic journals, but nothing compares to the training they receive in the laboratory. Hands-on education allows them to experience the backbone of engineering and science--conducting experiments, testing hypotheses, learning from their mistakes, and reaching their own conclusions.

For students with disabilities that prevent them from using their arms, the lab has been a place for observation, not action. Now, in a novel extension of the innovative computer-based tutoring technology he developed, Brian P. Butz, a professor of electrical engineering at Temple University, is helping these students to overcome their disabilities and get the most out of their learning experiences.

Butz has created a "virtual electrical laboratory," which replicates actual lab conditions and allows students to conduct hands-on research, and a "virtual office" to step into if they need help--all without leaving their computer terminals.

Using their voices, head signals, pointers, and other input devices, students can instruct the virtual lab to gather and operate instruments and tools one would find in any electrical engineering laboratory. They can hook up voltage meters and signal generators, for example, input the values and levels they want to check, and record the results. If they have questions, they can call up the virtual office- depicted on the monitor in a realistic manner--and click on a bookshelf to obtain reference materials, a file cabinet for background materials, and a tutor for help.

The core of the virtual laboratory is the Interactive Multimedia Intelligent Tutoring System (IMITS), the program Butz developed to augment more traditional computer tutorials by adding an "expert sys
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Contact: Tom Durso
tdurso@unix.temple.edu
215-204-7476
Temple University
2-Mar-1999


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