All posts by Beigie Lam

Entry – Week #4

– Based on your life experience, skills, and interests, what would a design process that is both uniquely yours and effective look like?

Based on my experiences in high school with a various  engineering design classes, I think my design process is rather similar to the orthodox method that is frequently advertised. Often, I notice something similar to a problem, or just something I think could be improved and think about what I could do about it. The problems I notice are usually things that I experience personally and hear about a lot from others such as a buggy feature of an app or an inconvenience with a service/system since those are within my area of activity. Then, I would research more information about the topic and identify areas of improvement that I could make to it in order to find a good fix to it. I brainstorm on paper and map out my ideas, connect what I think would work well together and then make charts of pros and cons of each idea. I think about the possible consequences each one of my solutions might have and consider if it might actually make the problem worse. I try to screen through options and ask people for feedback on the ideas before I narrow my approach to one and actually go through with developing a prototype. I test it out myself to see if it works and if there are any problems associated before I show it to other people and get their opinions. If it’s a good solution with minimal risk and problems, I let my friends know about it as well and spread the solution that way.

– Identify your three most important stakeholders and list five UNIQUE attributes for each one of them.

  • The Lehigh Gap Nature Center
      • Is the ONLY environmental educational nature center in the US created on a Superfund site
      • Motivated to educate public about conservation of the Lehigh watershed because they are built for the purpose of conserving the Lehigh river environment
      • 756 acre refuge that receives thousands of visitors locally and internationally each year and educating over 10,000 students annually
      • partners with schools in Bethlehem area to offer educational programs for students from preschool to graduate
      •  was a toxic site due to 80 years of heavy metal deposition from factory operations during the Industrial Revolution
  • Lehigh Valley libraries
      • provide free and easily accessible youth and adult programming for informal STEM learning with media and technology
      • facilitates thriving cultural scene in local community with multiple educational and recreational activities throughout the system
      • Government sponsored and funded but without traditional formal education restrictions
      • A source of traditional printed education materials as well as mixed media
      • Provides services from fitness yoga classes to computer tutorials for older users
  • Lehigh University research team and students
      • Faculty mentors who head the research are doing so out of their belief in the importance of environmental education and alternative methods of education & investing their own funds to further the project
      • Interdisciplinary team of undergrad and graduate students with various cultural backgrounds collaborating on research of education through gaming
      • A project initiative which began two years ago and is continuing development through multiple proposed phases of local environmental education
      • Using breakthrough technology to engage typically unmotivated students and ESL learners from distracting technologies such as cell phones
      • Utilizes Unity and various programs and codes to create a fully immersive VR field trip to the Lehigh River Valley for people who might not be able to travel there in person

-Identify three ways in which you will validate your project concept, technology, usability, and business model.

The project’s research questions investigate to what extent learning about the Lehigh River watershed using iVR with gaming features and local place-based contexts can lead to increased user engagement and better understanding about spatial watershed features and environmental issues that directly relate to the mission of each participating informal STEM education center in the region (Lehigh Valley, PA). The technology and usability will be validated through empirical data collected from participants who use the headsets; feedback surveys will be presented to evaluate the individual user experience.  We estimate over 4,000 participants to provide their feedback on the developed iVR software from ages 13 to adults and various cultural & ethnic backgrounds.  The second way is the actual developed game may also incorporate elements of assessment to determine whether the playing style and narrative meant to engage the user actually assists in learning or not. Multiple experts in the field will be assisting to gather data and analyze program activities and design principles and how these elements play into the education of students who are unengaged with traditional classroom learning methods. The third way is the dissemination of our technology to the partners, collaborators, and stakeholders we are working with throughout this project. Informal education centers such as the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and other environmental conservation organizations and public libraries will aid us in promoting the software and distributing it to the local community. If it raises awareness and importance of environmental conservation, it will prompt a new status quo with increased initiatives towards environmental efforts locally.

-Give three examples of something very interesting you learned from a friend that was a completely alien concept to you.

  • Dolphins sleep with one eye open (I heard this from a friend four years ago and I’ve never forgotten it)
  • Mixing lotion and isopropyl alcohol and massaging it on the back, chest, temple, and legs when sick
  • Putting towels on the backs (of kids) to absorb and dry their sweat when they do physical activities so they don’t get sick


Entry – Week #3

-List the top 20 questions your team needs to answer to advance the venture forward.

List of questions of LVSIF from Beyond Bars, Higher Education, and VR

16) How will this project implement a new system  of equilibrium and in what fields?

17) Why might this project face challenges in being assimilated into the formal education system?

18) What other fields could immersive virtual reality create social impact in?

19) How will we assess learning with our product?

20) How do we increase the scope of our project if it is successful?


-Develop and visualize the Theory of Change (Logic Model) for your venture:

Logic Model Poster


-Plans for Spring 2020 and Summer 2020

  • Visit Lehigh GAP Nature Center and other facilities to continue fostering working relations with stakeholders
  • Continue development of VR game software via Unity
  • Storyboard of lessons to be taught within the game about watershed, geography, topography, etc.
  • Polish user interface and graphics for increased immersion and education
  • Run product at partner institutions for informal education for public
  • Research and draft publication: design tenet or lessons learned & best practices of the technology


Entry – Week #2

-Give three compelling examples of how cultural issues affect your project.

As I introduced in my About page, the project that I am working on is the Lehigh Valley River Shed VR; since it takes place locally, the way cultural issues might impact my project will be less drastic than for those conducting their research abroad. Despite this, I fully realize that all local communities have different cultural backgrounds especially in regards to practices and policies towards education and environmental issues, both of which are fundamental concerns of my research. One example of how cultural issues could affect my project is the fact that in recent years, many schools in the Lehigh Valley community have taken steps towards piquing students’ interest in STEM fields. An article by The Morning Call reported that many Bethlehem schools have been working with Project Lead the Way, “a national nonprofit that develops STEM curriculum for kindergarten through 12th graders” to showcase the cooler parts of STEM careers in order to get them interested in math and science.  This being an example of how education culture has shifted towards a focus on non-traditional methods as opposed to standardized lessons will greatly aid our project in getting off the ground as schools will be more receptive of the technology we develop. Another example is how the perception of virtual reality technology has changed in America beyond the initial usages of entertainment. While the technology began propagating the market as a new medium for games, ideas of how to utilize this immersive new technology have grown beyond that. Now, many are looking into their possibility of being a new tool in education similar to how Chromebooks and iPads have been adopted in middle and high schools nationwide. A third cultural issue that may affect our project is the attitude the community has about environmental education. This will determine whether or not schools ultimately decide to use the technology we develop in their curriculum; it will depend on how important they consider environmental sustainability education for students to be. Does Broughal Middle School consider teaching students about their local watershed significant enough to pour in funds and time to work with us? This will ascertain whether there will be a market for our product.

-Have you experienced or observed any of these social situations at home? Describe at least three such situations.

I am from Honolulu, Hawaii which is quite a different environment from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and lifestyle culture is also a bit of a shift. In my opinion, educational culture is largely the same, however, because we were an island nation, there are many efforts spent to preserve the traditional Hawaiian culture and lands. One of the largest controversies happening in state at the moment is the delayed construction of the TMT (Thirty Meter Telescope) on Mauna Kea, a sacred Native Hawaiian mountain. Pro-TMT lobbyists argue that it will advance science and provide more information than ever before about the mysteries of deep space while protesters argue that it is kapu, or taboo to construct the telescope on sacred land. The government and local community have differing issues on the value of science and respecting the traditional customs. A different cultural/social issue is maintaining a balance in schools on teaching Hawaiian culture and offering more, specialized STEM courses students. It is somewhat similar to deciding whether students’ schedules should consist of more humanities or math and science subjects. Preserving traditional culture through classes that teach hula, the Hawaiian language, and Hawaiian history are definitely considered very important, but it is a sensitive balance to place it in high school curriculum when school administrations are interested in improving the English and Math testing scores. Something different about social/cultural culture at home is the fact that everyone tends to know everyone. It’s a very small island and so communities across schools are very interconnected. You might have a classmate and a friend at another high school who will end up being that classmate’s cousin or who is a member of their church. This is true for members of the school administration as well and relationships between students and teachers are very close. This is to say, if I wanted to try using a new application or website in class, I could simply bring it up to my teachers and they would be more than willing to try implementing it in our coursework. Teachers also share their ideas and new things they try to other school administrations at bimonthly conferences. News and products, therefore, get around extremely fast.

-Give three examples of cultural practices that can be leveraged to address community/market problems.

An example of a cultural practice that can be leveraged to address community/market problems at home is the concept of respecting the ‘aina  or land and nature. Environmental sustainability education through these virtual reality goggles can be greatly promoted as it is a project which would align with a core principle and value in both Native Hawaiian and local culture. Moreover, many schools on Oahu value hands on, experiential learning. This is especially so because we are surrounded by different natural features. In an environmental science course, my class took a field trip off campus to the Kalihi Stream fifteen minutes away by foot. We examined water quality, habitat degradation, soil erosion, and other qualities of a similar nature.  This was but one of many out-of-classroom lessons throughout the semester. This product could be marketed as providing more dynamic learning opportunities to schools across the state especially for students who have trouble staying still and focusing in a traditional classroom setting. Also, another cultural practice which could make the market for our product grow is the way locals communicate with each other. A student’s aunt might work as a security guard at X High School and speak about the innovation the principal had introduced to her brother-in-law who works as a teacher at Y High School who may spread the news to his colleagues and so on. Word of mouth tends to be the practice of how products gain traction as people are very willing to trust the words of their friends and neighbors. Gaining access to one high school will provide more ways to connect with other districts.

Entry – Week #1

I discovered the GSIF and LVSIF programs through an email from the Creative Inquiry Office with its colorful, eye-catching IKIGAI diagram with a slogan reading “your reason for being“. The description of these programs which promised a chance to conduct research as an undergraduate student and actually make a difference was what compelled me to apply. At that time, despite having been almost half a semester into my first year of college, things felt little different to me than high school. I was still going to class everyday, doing small assignments, and taking tests; I was underwhelmed by the triviality of my activities that seemed to have little significance beyond my grades. The reason I decided to attend Lehigh was the fact that they boasted an impressive partnership with the United Nations wherein students had opportunities to represent NGOs among other initiatives. I wanted to be able to do something similar and participate in something with real life implications hence my enrollment in the CINQ 388 course and participation in the LVSIF program. With a project like this, I will be able to reach real people with engineering and have a tangible impact in society as opposed to it only being a personal career. My degree is easily melded to this goal as well. As an IDEAS major with an intended concentration in Computer Engineering, International Relations, and Chinese, this course fits perfectly into the interdisciplinary degree I wish to create. Because this course goes hand in hand with the actual project of developing virtual reality technology for educational purposes, I can envision myself benefiting from not only the lessons on systemic engineering for global issues, but also the process of conducting research on an ever-developing technology. Since this course takes a top-down approach to the core subjects of the projects (such as either UTIs or VR ), I want to take the research experience and use it to build up a foundation for the courses in computer science or computer engineering that I will eventually be taking. That way, I will have an idea of what to expect as I become more involved in different coding languages. It should allow me to find a direction in what I wish to specialize in and can have the most impact on serious issues. As I become increasingly involved in the project and begin to shoulder more responsibilities for the team, I hope to discover how using these types of technologies will be beneficial to social policy in more ways than just education. Moreover, I think this course will deepen my understanding of how these technologies could also cause unintended consequences if they are not marketed sustainably. This is something for me to keep in mind as an essential idea of the IDEAS study program is the role of engineers in society. This is doubly true for me as I aspire to perform such a role on an international scale with global issues. With an issue such as people needing but lacking access to eyeglasses, I think the biggest obstacles are the human resources to measuring visual acuity and actually procuring the required lenses which requires manufacturing power to create glasses for each individual’s specific needs. There is a lack of optometrists in developing countries which is difficult to remedy; a temporary or initial solution may be to develop a very simple, automated eye test that can be easily and cheaply spread through towns. It will not be as reliable as an eye care professional’s diagnosis but it will be more realistic than trying to increase the number of optometrists in developing countries. A headset could be developed that a person can place over their eyes that displays the typical eye chart found in an optometrist’s office with an adaptive test similar to reading and math comprehension exams given to middle school students. Similar to a subject mastery assessment, users would see changes in their displays following their responses to a prompt box that would ask them what letters they can see at varying levels of distance. It would either bring them to a “closer” eye chart if their answers suggest vision impairment and nearsightedness or a “further” eye chart in the case of farsightedness and use this process to generate a prescription. This will provide eyesight diagnoses for individuals who may not be able to see an eye doctor. Getting physical eyeglasses would require some sort of partnership with a manufacturing laboratory or the government to subsidize the cost of the orders through some sort of healthcare policy.