Accelerating science education by interactive simulators and imaging experiments
Thomas L. Szabo1 – tlszabo@bu.edu
Peter Kaczkowski2 – peterkaczkowski@verasonics.com

1. Biomedical Engineering
Boston University 11335 NE 122nd Way

2. Verasonics, Inc.
44 Cummington Mall Suite 100
Boston, MA 02215 Kirkland, WA 98034

Popular version of paper ‘1aED3’
Presented Monday morning, November 29th, 2021
181st ASA Meeting

COVID-19 has cast a shadow across college science education. Conventional approaches and flipped classes included a lecture (either live or pre-watched), followed by the solution of specific homework problems done (either independently or in an interactive learning session) and supplemented with laboratories. COVID-19 restricted in-person class and laboratory time. Differences in student background and skill level became apparent, especially in the labor-intensive solution of specific homework problems.
At Boston University, an alternative consisting of a ten-module introductory ultrasound imaging curriculum was developed in which students engaged with course material experientially by using real time Graphical User Interface (GUI)-based physics simulators. These simulators replaced an equation or a set of equations. The simulators allow the user to vary the input variables Xn with a GUI (typically consisting of drop-down menus, sliders, or knobs). The output is in the form of selectable output variables Ym as a function of the subset of chosen input variables Xn. In most simulators, the type of output display is also user selectable.
In this new approach, students interact with simulators accommodating a wide range of skill levels, from beginner to advanced. With guidance, students advance at their own pace and obtain quantitative results in real-time, without traditional bottlenecks associated with homework calculations and mathematical derivations. Because each simulator typically has tens of thousands of input parameter combinations, students have a more global understanding of the concepts. Unlike a typical homework set, these simulators provide students with an understanding of the functional relationship of variables in a continuous and efficient way. Students can learn quickly which variables are most important and their functional interactions.

 Interactive simulator for imaging a three dimensional object using typical ultrasound imaging modes.

Interactive simulator video

Professor Szabo, under the sponsorship of Verasonics®, worked with several biomedical and electrical engineering graduate students part-time at Boston University for three years to develop programs for the simulators in MATLAB®, a scientific programming language. A set of accompanying lectures explained the software as part of an introductory ultrasound imaging curriculum designed to teach underlying physical principles, signal processing, and image processing concepts. He and Peter Kaczkowski, Director of Ultrasound Science at Verasonics, created a series of focused laboratories to further experience the curriculum principles. Using specialized imaging phantoms, students can learn about the imaging process firsthand, as well as the workings of an imaging system as they follow signals through a Verasonics Vantage™ Research Ultrasound System.
INSERT “Ultrasound imaging lab.jpg, A frame from a video of transducer manipulation to image a phantom in a laboratory exercise by using an ultrasound research imaging system”.

Verasonics is planning to offer a comprehensive course based on the simulators and laboratories. In addition, the authors are writing a companion textbook based on interactive simulators and focused laboratories. Verasonics, a privately held company, in Kirkland, Washington, USA, provides researchers and developers with advanced ultrasound imaging systems and flexible tools. For more information, visit https://verasonics.com/ .

 

 

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