PIs: Norm Lownds, Carrie Heeter
Graduate Student Thesis Project: Aparna Ramchandran
the complete written thesis.
PDA simulation of the plant scanner.
The Connected Gardens Project is funded by the
In the 4-H Children's Garden kids are discovering unseen information
about plants right in the palm of their hand using the Personal
Science Assistant! This PDA application reads the plant label (an
RFID tag) which brings up information and pictures about each of
the parts of that plant: root, stem, leaves, flowers, fruit and
Kids discover what each plant part looks like and what it does.
Just a click on the Cycle button and kids see what this plant looks
like in Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. A click on the Uses button
shows how this plant is used.
As children (and adults) use the Personal Science Assistant to
explore plants in the 4-H Children's Garden they will “see” even
more than the plant in front of the m. They will discover new facts,
new ways to look at plants and be inspired to explore the plants
The PDA is used right in the real garden, sparking curiosity and
expanding what can be seen beyond the plant in front of you. As
kids used the Personal Science Assistant they discovered that pansy
plants have fruit. They then examined the pansy plants in front
of them more closely and found they had fruit too!
Other kids discovered that marigolds can be used to keep bugs
away from other plants. Once they knew this, they smelled the marigold
flowers and leaves to learn what kind of smell bugs don't like.
They were also able to look at a clumpy marigold root without digging
it up, and see what marigold seeds look like.
The Personal Science Assistant can be used by individual children,
a small group and as part of a classroom investigation. In all
instances children are engaged, read the information carefully,
show each other what they have discovered and use the Personal
Science Assistant as the beginning of further exploration and discovery.
The Personal Science Assistant was created by Aparna Ramchandran
as her MA thesis project in the Digital Media Arts and Technology
(DMAT) program in the department of Telecommunication, Information
Studies, and Media at Michigan State University . She
worked with the Curator of the 4-H Children's Garden (Dr. Norm
Lownds ) and the Comm Tech Lab (Dr. Carrie Heeter ).
Personal Science Assistants like this one can be used in many
informal science learning venues. It is currently available during
field trips to the 4-H Children's Garden. Child reactions so far
have been consistent – they want more!