Augmented Speaker Physics


We are currently witnessing the birth of a cultural movement where everyday people tinker with STEM  (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) concepts, simply for the purpose of satisfying creativity and curiosity. This “maker movement” is powered by the wide availability of low-cost electronics and manufacturing tools, which allow amateur student makers to create interactive objects while exploring scientific phenomena. Dale Dougherty (2011), a founder of the maker movement, characterizes makers as just “playing with technology… They don't necessarily know what they're doing or why they're doing it. They're playing to discover what the technology can do, and probably to discover what they can do themselves.” Such environments have great potential to engage people with STEM concepts and activities while empowering individuals to physically manifest their dreams. However, in these learning environments, the students’ focus is more on completing a technological project rather than comprehending scientific concepts. While some learning does happen in such contexts, the majority of maker activities are about following a list of instructions and trusting that they are going to result into a functional project.

We believe that emerging technologies, such as Augmented Reality, have the potential to radically transform STEM education by making challenging concepts accessible to students. In this project we use Microsoft Hololens augmented reality devices, in order to research how AR technology can be used to show the invisible physics phenomena involved in audio speakers. The figure below shows how this project fits into the reality-virtuality continuum: 


Figure 1. The reality-virtuality continuum, with examples of augmented reality technologies. *

Students' understanding of such a system can be enhanced by the use of AR technology, which can provide an interactive visualization of the flow of electrons, magnetic fields, audio signals and waves, directly on top of the relevant physical components. We measure whether AR-enabled interventions can increase learning gains, facilitate deeper conceptual discussion among students, modify student conceptions of the observed phenomena, or change student attitudes towards STEM or their own learning. We use traditional quantitative and qualitative measures, along with novel methods from the field of Multi-Modal Learning analytics (such as physiological sensors, eyetrackers, body posture trackers) to understand and classify students’ behaviors across conditions. Creation of this system involved hardware and software development (C++, C#, Unity3D, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Python, Hololens).

This work contributes to our understanding of how student education of STEM concepts can be enhanced by new technologies such as augmented reality; contributes a set of reusable modules to visualize and simulate the invisible phenomena that are commonly encountered in maker activities; and produces guidelines to help the design of innovative learning environments.




NSF Award #1748093: EAGER: Making with Understanding

Team Members

Iulian Radu, Adam Petty, Iva Markevic, Alice Li Huang, Yanru Wang, Francisca Astudillo, Sebastien Vanackere, Yong Dich, Bertrand Schneider


Radu, I., Schneider, B., Petty, A., Markevic, I., Huang A. (submitted). Collaborative Learning Affordances of Augmented Reality for Physics Education. ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 2018.


Radu, I., Schneider, B. "Using Augmented Reality to Promote Making with Understanding" American Educational Research Association (AERA), workshop on Applied Research on Immersive Environments for Learning. 2018

Radu, I., Schneider, B., & Lee, E. "Making with Understanding: The Invisible Physics of Sound Generating Speakers" MIT Museum, Cambridge Science Festival. 2018


*Figure 1 Copyright 2020, HGSE LIT Lab - licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 4.0. Some content in this image is originating by the European Space Agency (, Dickinson Museum Center (, FreeSVG (, MaxPixel (, Ramadhanakbr (, Pixabay ( ; and )