Campus News Science & Technology Society & Culture

UGA research team receives $500K NIH grant to develop interactive learning tools

Renee Robertson Lab
a digital artist at IS3D

Athens, Ga. – A team of University of Georgia researchers has been awarded a $500,000 small business grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to develop interactive educational software aimed at teaching high school students how the five senses work in the context of the brain and how neurons work.

IS3D LLC, a partnership founded in 2010 by eight UGA faculty and staff members, will develop the software with input from high school teachers and students in Atlanta and northeast Georgia. The grant is based on intellectual property developed at UGA, which is being further developed by IS3D.

IS3D will design a game based on the five senses, along with a series of interactive case studies that will allow students to explore how neurons work. The software will be tested in classrooms to gauge their effectiveness in helping students learn and whether they improve the students’ engagement in science curriculum.

“During field-testing of similar software created by our development team, we received very positive feedback from teachers and students,” said Tom Robertson, who is CEO of IS3D and an associate professor of physiology and large animal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “When we started making these learning tools about three years ago, our goal was to design products that would entice students to learn, so that we could give high school educators a useful tool to add in their classrooms. During the next 18 months, we will work directly with students and teachers as we design and refine this new game and accompanying interactive case studies.”

The award marks the team’s first small business grant since the researchers incorporated to help broaden funding sources for their projects, including the creation of a product revenue stream that can be redirected to create future educational software.

“We’re all very excited to receive our first business grant,” said Robertson. “Input from the Small Business Development Center, the Georgia Bio Business Center and UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Research was a great help in establishing the company. We’re also very proud of the fact that we will have three UGA graduates leading the team.”

The IS3D LLC ( board members include four professors and a staff member from the College of Veterinary Medicine: Tom Robertson, Ph.D.; Jim Moore, DVM, Ph.D.; Scott Brown, VMD, Ph.D.; Cynthia Ward, VMD, Ph.D., and instructional designer Flint Buchanan, MFA. The other partners are: Steve Oliver, Ph.D., a professor from the College of Education; Casey O’Donnell, Ph.D., a telecommunications professor from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication; and Mike Hussey, BME, MFA, a theater professor from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. For more information on IS3D LLC, see

To date, the members have completed three interactive case studies (on diffusion, filtration and osmosis) and one video game designed to teach the principles of osmosis, called “Osy Osmosis.” IS3D is currently completing a fourth interactive case study on transport mechanisms in cells. “Osy Osmosis” was released in April 2011 as an app for iPhones, iPads and Android platforms.

Related links: