2021 Grants Challenge

Immersive Learning inside the World in a Cell, uses emergent technologies such as Virtual Reality, Interactive Games, and World Building to take Los Angeles youth on an artscience journey inside the complex world in our cells to better understand how their bodies work.

Immersive Learning inside the World in a Cell, engages young people to learn more about the molecular world inside their body. This knowledge will empower them to make healthy choices and inspire them to consider future careers in artscience and STEAM. Using the collaborative and interdisciplinary practice of World Building allows young people to integrate their imagination and emergent technologies such as Game Design, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), creating new stories and pathways for exploration of any inquiry.


In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

What is the problem that you are seeking to address?

It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that it is a public health imperative to create an informed and knowledgeable population who are able to make good decisions about how to manage their health and wellness. Last year provided a dramatic demonstration of this as public health experts needed to provide rapid guidance for people with a very basic background in fundamental biology to avoid catastrophic disease based on the understanding of the transmission and etiology of COVID-19. Another illness impacting Los Angeles, where knowledge of biology is essential for its mitigation, prevention or possible cure is type 2 diabetes (T2D). There are many books and traditional classes that teach this content, but our program has created innovative learning tools using emergent technologies to teach youth because this generation of students and patients pay more attention to these platforms and therefore, have a long-term engagement with what happens to their body at the cellular level.

Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.

Our program equips classrooms and clinics with tools that can address the problem of science literacy by using storytelling and design as a means of accessing core concepts in molecular, cellular, and structural biology. By merging art and science, our learning tools are multidisciplinary STEAM experiences. We created an interactive game called Pancreatic Beta Cell Station, where patients and students take an avatar through a “metro line” experience in the Pancreatic Beta Cell. Understanding the systems of this cell is paramount for T2D patients to understand why adherence to their treatment regimens is essential. We work in conjunction with Nancy Chang, USC Faculty at The Keck School of Medicine, who is a researcher at the Type 2 Diabetes clinic at CHLA. This grant will support the completion of the game and Beta testing at the T2D diabetes clinic. Once completed, the game will be tested in a feasibility and acceptability clinical trial in Spring 2022. Our program developed learning modules and a VR experience that are ready to share with highschools. The grant will support taking our learning tools into a Sequoyah High School classroom in the fall to work with a dedicated group of students and faculty to test the curriculum and create effective learning modules for all high school students that are aligned with NGSS science standards. In the spring, the lesson plans, teacher guides, and classroom tools will be available for use in partner public high-school classrooms.

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Pilot or new project, program, or initiative

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 150

Indirect Impact: 1,500

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

This project will help educate youth with T2D diabetes about their disease using technology that will make it easier to understand difficult concepts that patients have a hard time grasping. Having VR games also spark more interest in this population than the traditional methods currently used. If our work is successful, young people and the general public will have more fluency in understanding the molecular systems in their bodies and can use that knowledge to make informed decisions and participate in finding solutions to future scientific questions. Los Angeles should be a leader in taking STEAM into high schools. Immersive Learning inside the World in a Cell could change the way schools approach teaching the fundamentals of cellular biology for generations to come. Our focus is on using immersive learning experiences to create curiosity, self-discovery and challenge youth to take a deeper look at the world around them.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

For the clinic, we would conduct beta testing with a group of 30 youth patients to share the interactive game with them and administer pre and post-surveys to measure the following metrics: 1) Does exposure to the game show an increase in patient understanding of their condition and T2D. 2) Does exposure to the game increases their adherence to their treatments and health regimes. With the high school classroom, we would track the following metrics by conducting pre and post surveys with the students to evaluate comprehension and engagement: 1) Does participation in our program increase students’ current interest in the Arts and inspire future majors and career paths. 2) Does participation in our program increase students’ current interest in Science and inspire future majors and career paths. 3) Do students understand the general function of the Pancreatic Beta Cell and Cells in general, the molecular components, the pathways, and interactions that lead to Insulin production.

Which of the LEARN metrics will you impact?​

Arts education

Enrollment in afterschool programs

Proficiency in STEM

Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.

LA is the best place to CREATE