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Prof. Nandana Weliweriya receives UGA's Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Learning Technologies Grant for second consecutive year

June 14, 2022

This grant supports his Virtual Reality collaborative project with the college of engineering and the transformation of the PHYS 1251 course labs (Introductory Studio Physics for Engineers I).

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Prof. Nandana Weliweriya

Later this month, Prof. Weliweriya and his team will submit a grant proposal for the National Science Foundation's Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program (NSF: IUSE) to follow a SEED proposal in late fall to measure physics to engineering transformation. Here is more information on the project proposal:

Project Title:

Re-engineering and measuring the impact of Introductory Studio Physics for Engineers I laboratory activity improvements, while Supporting Education Research in STEM Problem-Solving.

Project Abstract:

Nandana Weliweriya, PI of this project, is a physics education researcher who actively participates in education research projects to contribute to research theories and improve instructions in physics and STEM broadly. While currently engaged in a couple of SoTL projects, Nandana is an alumnus of CTL's ALSI program. He successfully adapted techniques and revised many activities in the scale-up physics 2 (PHYS 1252) courses, which were highly appreciated and voted by students during the Mid-Semester Formative Evaluations and used by fellow faculty members in the physics department.

The PI recently received affordable course material grants to develop pre-lecture videos for his physics 1 (PHYS 1251) courses in the fall 2022 semester. He plans to provide much-needed connections to real-life scenarios and 3-D representations of concepts missing in textbooks. After re-engineering physics 2 courses, this proposal aims to revamp the lab section in physics 1 courses to provide a complete package of an improved educational experience for our introductory level engineering students. Further, Nandana is a present Member of the Instructional Action Team (DeLTA Project - IAT) for the Department of Physics and Astronomy. The team and the department identify the lab activities in introductory-level courses need a revamp. Taking this lead, the PI proposes to bring iPads to the PHYS 1251 and 1252 classrooms in connection with well-designed, technology-supported lab activities that use simulations, regular hands-on data collection, and analysis processes. This study focused on both the cognitive and affective domains of learning physics in the laboratory environment. We investigated the role of simulation and traditional (equipment) laboratory explorations on student achievements. Finally, this proposed study is connected, and a sub-project of the ongoing LTG-funded Virtual Reality project supports Education Research in STEM Problem-Solving. As a collaboration between Physics and Engineering, we suggest using Virtual Reality as a pedagogical tool; a.) to develop UGA students' interest in abstract STEM concepts; b.) to create opportunities to solve problems closer to the real world individually or collaboratively in a virtual environment. Further, this project has a high potential to facilitate interdisciplinary education research within and beyond UGA to investigate students' problem-solving strategies and patterns.

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