hapTEL Virtual Dental Lab celebration

hapTEL Virtual Dental Lab celebration 20th September 2010, London

More than 50 educators, researchers, students and policy makers gathered on Monday 20th September at the King’s College London (KCL) Dental Institute on the 18th floor of Guy’s Hospital to celebrate the Phase I achievements of the hapTEL project. (see hapTEL video)

The event launched the ‘curriculum beta version’ of the project’s haptic mouth which allows dental students to practise drilling teeth in a 3-D touch-sensitive simulation rather than on expensive plastic teeth, thus saving money and enhancing the students’ learning.

King’s College London Principal Professor Rick Trainor opened the proceedings by pointing out that the evening’s programme reflected the rich interdisciplinary and multi-institutional flavour of the project. Professor Trainor also noted a point that would resonate throughout the event: the project’s transformation of research into the practical curriculum of immediate benefit(s) to learners, which is a key principle at King’s College London, recognised as 21st amongst World Class Universities.

Professor Nairn Wilson, Dean of KCL’s Dental Institute, spoke of hapTEL’s ‘significant advancement of the possibilities in relation to simulation in dental education’ that has sparked commercial interest which could well influence the dental profession. He also raised the project’s major presence at the recent Association for Dental Education in Europe Conference and the potential for haptic research in dentistry to pioneer the technology for other disciplines.

Project Director Professor Margaret Cox highlighted the importance of hapTEL’s research component strand which builds on and researches the interrelationship between technological development, curriculum innovation and integration and educational evaluation. She explained the educational theoretical frameworks on which the project research was based which provide robust underpinning of the whole project

Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Director Professor Richard Noss discussed the way that the process of designing tools for learning develops not only the tools but the way we understand the subject and stated that the ‘hugely complex’ project was just scratching the surface of possibilities in the field.

Next a series of project staff discussed the project’s various pedagogical, dental and technical impacts.

Dr Mark Woolford pointed out the importance of integrating the new techniques with traditional teaching methods to ensure curriculum coverage and learning outcomes. Professor William Harwin discussed the continuing development of the virtual mouth including a second mirror hand being introduced and ongoing finer tuning of the simulation details.

Dr Barry Quinn explained the large sale comparative study of 144 Year 1 students, the value of hapTEL in replacing the more expensive and less anatomically accurate ‘phantom heads’ and plastic teeth, and the Phase 1 results showing that hapTEL students performed as well as traditionally taught students at the end of the term.

Dr Avi Banerjee, Professor Tim Newton and Dr Jon Hindmarsh elucidated on how their research methods presented interesting data about how students learn with haptics and 3D simulations.

The group then moved to the official launch of the Virtual Dental Lab’s ‘curriculum beta version’ with Professor Trainor and Project Director Professor Margaret Cox opening the laboratory.

The evening’s MC and hapTEL Project Manager Dr Jonathan San Diego then demonstrated the hardware and software in action along with researchers Alastair Barrow and Brian Tse.

Professor Cox noted tellingly that the project’s design work had made the mid-range $250 haptic engines perform more like the high-end $13,000 machines available.

The last word went to students demonstrating the devices in a hands-on session who described the ‘very helpful’ nature of the system and explained how it had felt like ‘second nature’ to use it.

More on hapTEL
More on King’s College London
More on University of Reading
More on Birmingham City University

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