Research Foundation News

July 31, 2020

Explore Interactive technology bringing collaborative STEM learning to pandemic-isolated students

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue University startup is turning game play into serious learning for elementary students away from classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Explore Interactive markets an augmented reality platform to help students learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“Our newest product, MindLabs, extends the foundational Explore platform to allow kids to collaborate remotely on engineering and design of circuits,” said Amanda Thompson, CEO of Explore Interactive.

Explore Interactive has worked with educators and elementary students from across the U.S. in the development of the MindLabs platform, which lets children work together to solve hands-on STEM challenges and conduct open-ended design and play.

Now, the founders of the startup have partnered with the Museum of Science, Boston; and Homewood Science Center, located near Chicago, to host a virtual STEM camp. 

“There is no better time to empower racially and ethnically diverse children to see themselves as scientists,” said Heather Gunsallus, vice president of STEM education at the Museum of Science, Boston. “The team at the Museum of Science, Boston, is thrilled to support the vital work of Purdue, Explore Interactive and Homewood Science Center with the students in Chicago’s Southland.”

The virtual camp will take place the first week of August for students 8-12 years of age. Thompson will lead virtual sessions, and then the students will complete projects on their own.

 “In spite of these challenging times, we are able to fulfil our mission of inspiring scientific wonder, learning and pursuit,” said Edie Dobrez, executive director of the Homewood Science Center. “We are honored to work with esteemed colleagues at Purdue and the Museum of Science, Boston, to offer “Augmented Reality: Northern Lights” for our racially and ethnically diverse student population in Chicago's Southland.”

Thompson said the MindLabs platform unlocks the potential of augmented reality to deliver analytics of soft skills like collaboration and hard skills like systems thinking through applied, hands-on design and troubleshooting, a far more effective approach, it says, compared with worksheets and multiple-choice tests.

“In the current remote learning environment, MindLabs is a solution for teachers who have very limited options for students to engage collaboratively on STEM projects,” Thompson said.

Thompson and her team conducted educational research with researchers at the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering at Purdue under SBIR funding from National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and Elevate Ventures.

Explore has received support and guidance from the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub housed in the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Purdue’s Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus.

About Purdue Research Foundation

The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Established in 1930, the foundation accepts gifts; administers trusts; funds scholarships and grants; acquires property; protects Purdue's intellectual property; and promotes entrepreneurial activities on behalf of Purdue. The foundation manages the Purdue Foundry, Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, Purdue Research Park, Purdue Technology Centers and University Development Office. In 2020, the IPWatchdog Institute ranked Purdue third nationally in startup creation and in the top 20 for patents. The foundation received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information about involvement and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341, 

Amanda Thompson,

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