Recent Example

SCIDSE’s Motivational Environments research group, led by assistant professor Winslow Burleson, is advancing the next generation of Human-Computer Interaction methods, theories, technologies, architectures, and environments that incorporate wearable and ambient sensors, responsive spaces, robots and relational agents to promote creativity, teamwork, learning, and motivation. These activities are pursued through collaborations with teachers, online communities and museums involved in the research and development of novel educational technologies and the iterative deployment and evaluations of these in real-world classrooms, museums, zoos and outdoor settings through participatory design methodologies.

The group engages children in grades K-6 in robotic pet building activities that foster their interest in STEM education.  They use paper cards with compelling icons to teach robotic birds, frogs, cows and lions equipped with web cameras and computer vision software how to decode the icons, and how to navigate and behave in challenging environments.  Learners are also asked to “become the robots” as a naturally engaging way for them to form new hypotheses and to test and debug scenarios they construct.  As pet building activities broaden the traditional scope of STEM learning, they are especially interesting to girls.

Middle and high school students take the activity one step further by translating the card-based icons into functional and interactive programs.  Their technical and team working skills are extended through exploration scenarios and advanced mobile gaming paradigms, such as smart classrooms configured as Astronaut Robot Mission Simulators, which allow students to “re-visit” the Apollo 15 lunar landing site, as well as visit the Mars Rover mission landing sites that have not yet been visited by humans. Using low-cost off-the-shelf gaming technologies as well as immersive and online environments, these expeditions introduce and empower participants to engage with and advance new experiences that foster personal ownership of STEM skills, learning and creativity.

Motivational Environments is training teachers and museum educators new skills to implement effective use of the innovative cyber learning technologies and methodologies.  With collaborators at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and MIT, Dr. Burleson’s Intelligent Tutoring Systems have been used by thousands of students.  All of this is made possible through close collaborations with the San Francisco Exploratorium, Smithsonian Institute’s National Zoological Park, American Geological Institute, ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration’s Dietz Museum and mars Education Program, with support fro iRobot, Motorola, and research grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA. 

School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering: Annual Report 2009-2010


Motivational Environments collaborates with partners across the country and around the world to advances research in schools.  We work with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, New York University, University of California, Santa Barbara, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an array of Arizona schools.


Summer Earth and Space Science Leadership Academy for Teachers 

In Summer 2012, Motivational Environments participated in a collaboration with the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) and NASA, the School of Earth and Space Exploration hosting a week-long Earth and Space Science Teacher Leadership Academy. Academy. 

See the flyer here.


We work with the following museums:

The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium, "a museum of science, art, and human perception located in San Francisco, California. We believe that following your curiosity and asking questions can lead to amazing moments of discovery, learning, and awareness, and can increase confidence in your ability to understand how the world works. We also believe that being playful and having fun is an important part of the process for people of all ages."

ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration Facilities, Museums, and Activities

Universitarium in Aalborg, Denmark