Education & Training

Most Recent Inventions

Physics ‘Office Hours’ educational learning platform

A physics education researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has designed a novel and interactive app-based study aid platform for students in STEM disciplines. The platform’s interface is built around education research into how students conceptualize problems they do not understand. It is a novel tool to help students see why they are struggling with a particular problem, and what might help them solve it, rather than solving the problem for them. The team’s first working prototype, the Physics Office Hours app, has been designed for use in introductory-level college physics. The app is designed to mimic a scenario students might face during ‘office hours’ with a professor: Rather than offering an answer, the instructor guides the students through problems via a series of questions. A user-friendly online interface allows app content to be easily updated and changed over time and as more problem sets become available. In addition, the app architecture can easily be adapted to problem sets in other STEM disciplines and therefore serves as a platform technology.

WURSS: An Instrument to Measure the Severity and Duration of the Common Cold

Now, a group of UW-Madison medical researchers has developed an instrument for measuring the severity and functional impact of the common cold. The instrument, called the Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey (WURSS), provides a comprehensive set of questions covering cold symptoms and related quality-of-life outcomes experienced by cold-sufferers.

Long (WURSS-44) and short (WURSS-21) versions are now available. Patients complete the survey -- in either electronic or hard-copy form -- and the results are analyzed statistically.

The original survey was created using previous scales, expert opinion and common knowledge. It was later expanded and refined based on its use in a randomized trial testing the effectiveness of Echinacea as a cold remedy, and through interviews and focus groups with survey participants. The questionnaire measures specific cold symptoms, symptoms clusters (dimensions), functional impact, and global severity.

The WURSS-44 has now undergone formal validity testing. Internal validity is supported by favorable reliability and responsiveness coefficients. External validity is supported by strong associations of WURSS with the SF-8 (a general health instrument) and the Jackson cold scale. Importantly, WURSS is both more comprehensive and more sensitive (better responsiveness) than either comparison instrument. A subset of items have been selected for the short form WURSS-21. More details on validation and item reduction can be obtained from the researchers through the link below.

Video Demonstrating Minimal Incision Aortic Surgery

Dr. Turnipseed of the University of Wisconsin Hospital has now perfected a minimal incision surgical procedure for treating abdominal aortic aneurysm. A video demonstrating this procedure is available for licensing under copyright.

Open-Chested Animal Teaching Video of Myocardial Infarction

Using high-quality videotape, a team of medical researchers, practitioners and educators has developed an interactive CD-ROM showing the effects of arterial blockage in an open-chest, pig model of myocardial infarction and the accompanying changes in the electrocardiogram and blood pressure. The videotape shows an exposed, beating heart in which an attack is induced by placing a clamp on the left-anterior, descending coronary artery, to block blood flow.

The main objectives of the CD-ROM are to demonstrate the physical changes in the heart during myocardial infarction; provide mechanistic explanations for these changes; and illustrate the physiological basis for common therapeutic interventions for heart attacks. The CD also provides animations of common tools and procedures for diagnosis and monitoring; video of surgical procedures both preceding and during open-heart surgery; a glossary of terms; and a comprehensive set of test questions.

New Tools for Student Training and Gene Discovery/Trait Improvement in Plants

UW–Madison researchers used a selective breeding program to create a self-compatible (can propagate via self-pollination) analog of a self-incompatible variety of B. rapa.

Seeds of the self-incompatible variety are used by educators in 88 countries around the world (estimated sales ~15 million seeds/year) to provide students with a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to enhance their understanding of plant biology and general biological principles. However, the obligatory outcrossing reproductive habit of existing plants essentially precludes extension of the biology curriculum to the realms of molecular biology and genomics.

The new self-compatible and highly inbred (hence true-breeding) variety circumvents those limitations while providing a familiar classroom model system whose growth habits—compact stature, rapid progression from seed to progeny seeds, vigorous growth with minimal material inputs—are of high value to educators and plant breeders alike.

With the reference strain in hand, UW researchers have developed a suite of derivative lines and genetic/genomic resources that include:
  1. A diverse collection of mutant derivatives whose phenotypes are provocative and clearly distinct from the parental strain, and whose transmission from parental to progeny generations epitomizes fundamental Mendelian genetic principles of inheritance;
  2. PCR-based molecular genetic markers that enable localization and molecular characterization of mutant/variant alleles;
  3. A DNA sequence assembly that describes the nucleotide sequences of the ~40,000 genes encoded by the B. rapa genome;
  4. Several RNA-Seq data sets useful to understand genome-wide patterns of gene expression; and
  5. Advance Intercross Recombinant Inbred Lines with demonstrated utility for identification of B. rapa genes that modify the expression of quantitative genetic traits.

As an integrated collection of resources, this plant model system will be of considerable use to both educators and agricultural biotechnology firms interested in identifying lead gene candidates for enhancement of agronomically important traits.

Most Recent Patents

Breast Imaging Training and Testing Simulator

A UW–Madison researcher has developed a simulator that helps radiology residents-in-training learn to interpret breast images (mammographic, ultrasound, etc.), assess their knowledge and compare their performance to experts.

The system is preloaded with medical histories and images from known clinical cases. The trainee is asked to recommend recall instructions. His/her responses are tested against the answers of an expert clinician and pathologic correlation. The program reports any divergence between the two.

The program uses actual clinical data and is designed to provide realistic yet demanding simulation. In addition to recall instructions, a trainee may be asked to complete other tasks, such as locating a suspicious lump or predicting whether a biopsy will be required.

Improving Students’ Retention by Attuning Computerized Teachers to Brain Activity

UW–Madison researchers have developed a method to trigger attention-promoting behaviors presented by robotic, virtual or video-based instruction, using brain-wave measurements indicating drops in user engagement.

User attentiveness is determined by well-accepted EEG measurement of the brain’s electrical activity, like that provided by existing EEG technology. The new system produces an ‘engagement threshold’ to identify periods of declining user attention in real time and signal some modification of the lesson. This modification could take the form of increased audio signals, the use of more pictures, requests for student input or eye and limb movements by robotic instructors. In evaluating student responsiveness to a lesson, this method provides a more robust alternative to other computer-based educational (CBE) tools that gauge effectiveness solely by users’ explicit input or post-hoc comprehension.

Laboratory Mouse Procedural Techniques Training DVD and Manual

Trainers at the RARC have developed a training DVD that can be used as a resource or refresher for procedural techniques on mice. This DVD, called “Laboratory Mouse – Procedural Techniques,” provides content similar to that of the in-person training course offered through the RARC.

Procedures and techniques demonstrated in the DVD include handling, restraint, oral gavage, identification and common bleeding and injection techniques. All procedures and techniques shown in the DVD are approved by the University of Wisconsin’s Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC).