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Your Environment. Your Health.

Current SBIR E-Learning Awards

Worker Training Program

The following descriptions of successful applications for current "SBIR E-Learning for HAZMAT and Emergency Response Requests for Applications" were provided by the applicants.

Agile development of innovative, interactive hazard recognition and mitigation tools/learning e-platforms for workers involved in disaster rescue and recovery

Application Number Principal Investigator Company
2 R44 ES030580-02 McLaughlin, Jeffery Radiant Creative Group, LLC 

Workers involved in post-flood reconstruction face an increased risk of occupational exposure to respiratory and other safety hazards as well as threats to their personal security (i.e., exploitation, wage theft, and wage discrimination). Post-flood reconstruction is often handled by day laborers who are predominantly non-English speaking and who have limited access to safety training and personal protective equipment. As flooding events increase in frequency and intensity, there is a critical need to develop tools to help these workers mitigate threats to their safety and wellbeing. To address this need, the interdisciplinary team of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program have been developing and refining Pocket Ark (PA), a comprehensive e-learning platform for workers in post-flood reconstruction. Their goal in Phase II is to develop the next generation of PA’s e-learning platform to disseminate critical information about hazards to workers prior to deploy it to a post-flood worksite. Project aims include updating the PA platform and conducting a high- fidelity simulated disaster response scenario to train 64 workers and evaluate the program’s efficacy. As an outcome, Phase II is expected to yield a production-ready e-learning platform that: 1) delivers quality, audience-appropriate training to workers; 2) disseminates real-time information about potential on-site hazards; 3) improves logistics between workers and coordinating organizations; and 4) provides tools to reduce wage theft and other security risks. The anticipated outcome of PA is significant in that it addresses multiple dimensions of worker safety unique to this worker population.    


EC1 is a mobile 360-degree point-of-view learning and gamification tool integrating a VR scenario, APIE response procedures and assessment to test and improve firefighter decision-making and response

Application Number Principal Investigator Company
2 R44 ES034218-01 Held, Christopher T Metamedia Training International, Inc.

Hazardous material releases pose a serious threat to our communities. In 2018, the Stakeholder Preparedness Review (SPR) found that 50% of states and territories identified chemical and radiological hazardous material releases, the most frequently cited ‘technological hazard’ was a troubling concern (FEMA, 2019). In 2019, the Department of Transportation reported an all-time high 22,756 hazardous material incidents, a 53% increase from just 10 years prior (U.S. DOT, 2020). Yet, first responder hazmat training initiatives for response efforts still often do not adequately prepare responders to safely manage a hazmat scene. Current trainings are limited to classroom-based tabletop exercises and videos - which do not sufficiently illustrate the risk and response effort. There is a real need for effective high-quality, realistic, and risk-based training to prepare first responders to act quickly and effectively when faced with a hazardous material incident. The team headed by MetaMedia will work collaboratively with the IAFF to develop a mobile learning gamification application combining 360-degree VR interfaced with our new learning paradigm “Point-of-View Learning” (PVL) and gamification training that is grounded in the Assess, Plan, Implement, and Evaluate (APIE) approach, a proven-effective response process for hazardous material situations. Our prototype, Engine Company 1 (EC1), creates a lifelike emergency response training environment using PVL that employs a collaborative, integrated solution combining the best of key learning methods including: (1) instructor-led training (ILT) aided by a custom-developed Facilitator’s Guide, (2) a real-world VR scenario, (3) a gamification eLearning platform designed to disseminate, display, and score APIE-based challenge questions, (4) and a post-assessment identifying weaknesses and feedback for remediation. EC1 will integrate the best practices of classroom instruction, instructional systems design, learning styles, and adult learning theory. This powerful combination harnesses critical decision-making skills by breaking down a complex incident scene into a methodical response approach, analyzing clues on the scene, planning a response, implementing the plan, and evaluating the progress. Making the right decisions in an emergency is not always straightforward and many can involve different perspectives and choices to properly and safely handle the situation. The need to proactively and innovatively support awareness and problem-solving skills before facing real-life situations is critical. A 360- degree VR scenario combined with gamification that encourages calculated and planned thinking from different perspectives strengthens decision making skills, puts knowledge into practice, makes relevant training fun and competitive, lets the learner make mistakes without sustaining harm, and provides a remediated assessment feedback loop. Integrating these multiple forms of learning into a custom training solution that can increase consistent and effective decision making and enhance key skills for situational awareness will be transformative in real-life emergency situations.

Enabling Realistic HAZMAT Training Simulations with the PerSim(TM) Augmented Reality Patient Simulator

Application Number Principal Investigator Company
2 R44 ES030578-02 Baig, Sohail Medcognition, Inc.

Although patient simulators have demonstrated improved learning outcomes in medical training, there is a significant lack of realism. Thus, they do not effectively provoke a realistic emotional response in trainees. This significantly limits their educational value to the emergency medical service (EMS) training agencies as does – in the case of mannequins – their cost, reliance on electricity, and lack of portability. To address these significant limitations of the current medical patient simulators, the PI has developed PerSim™, a patient simulator using augmented reality (AR) and currently a product offered by the PI's company. However, additional research and development is needed to effectively support HAZMAT training scenarios. Commercial Need: Based on interviews with individuals at training agencies within EMS agencies, HAZMAT training scenarios would be of significant value. Since being released in the fourth quarter of 2017, four sites have purchased PerSim™ for ~$20-30K each and are using the system for EMS training, effectively training over 100 trainees per year. Moreover, the PI has a joint marketing agreement with Microsoft, which boosts the company's marketing efforts. Preliminary Data: The PI has developed PerSim™, an AR-based patient simulator. Via the Microsoft HoloLens AR display, the system projects high-resolution, realistic animations of a patient onto any surface a trainee chooses, such as a low-fidelity mannequin as a physical reference for haptic input during procedures. The instructor uses a handheld tablet as both a controller for the simulation and an automated assessment system to track trainee performance. The system utilizes another tablet to act as a defibrillator and a physiologic monitor to provide real-time vital sign and heart rhythm data. The system's control interfaces and registration algorithms are provisionally patented. This project proposes to develop and evaluate HAZMAT training scenarios in the PI's innovative AR-based patient simulator, PerSim™. In Specific Aim 1, the PI will work with medical artists from UT Health and a HAZMAT expert co-I to create realistic scenarios and integrate them with the PerSim™ system. The PI plans to develop textures and animations based on the NFPA 472 Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials, specifically poisonous gas (e.g., phosgene) inhalation, corrosive materials (e.g., a vesicular agent such as mustard), and poisonous materials (e.g., organophosphate). In Specific Aim 2, the PI will evaluate the realism of the HAZMAT scenarios through user studies with HAZMAT professionals as participants. The proposed research is relevant to public health because it enables more effective training of HAZMAT professionals, which will result in saving lives. This project is relevant to NIEHS's mission because it applies augmented reality in a novel approach to enhance the realism of HAZMAT simulation and training, thereby better preparing trainees for real scenarios.

Immersive Modular Preparedness Intelligent Tutoring (IMPRINT)

Application Number Principal Investigator Company
2 R44 ES031818-02 Dr. E. Vincent Cross II Charles River Analytics, Inc. 
2 R44 ES031818-02 Dan Duggan  Charles River Analytics, Inc.

Instructors must deliver engaging, realistic, and immersive tabletop simulations at the conclusion of Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) recertification to support Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) worker and first responder safety and adherence to protocol in the field. This exercise often burdens instructors to deliver a paper or PowerPoint simulation that, although based on real events, fails to meaningfully engage or immerse trainees. When trainees fail to engage, they are putting themselves and others at risk by decreasing their ability to adhere to protocol when responding to HAZMAT incidents in the field. Therefore, emergency response training organizations require a cost-effective training solution that increases the realism and authenticity of tabletop simulations to better equip trainees to execute HAZWOPER safely and effectively when they are in the field.

Charles River Analytics, in partnership with The New England Consortium and Lt. Michael Kates of the Boston Fire Department, proposes to develop and evaluate an Immersive Modular Preparedness Intelligent Tutor (IMPRINT). IMPRINT aims to provide a robust, commercial, portable adaptive virtual reality (VR) solution that will be complemented by an intelligent virtual training system and development framework that actively improves trainees' ability to perform HAZWOPER procedures within a range of realistic field scenarios. IMPRINT will be an untethered intelligent tutoring system (ITS) using the Oculus Quest VR headset to provide an immersive, virtual training experience. With IMPRINT, trainees can apply complex, dangerous procedures in a safe, controlled environment through guided and immersive procedure rehearsal. In Phase II, we will produce a system that complements existing training with a production ready VR case study development suite and a library of VR case studies that replace standard paper and PowerPoint scenario-based activities used to prepare trainees for hands-on assessments and their final HAZWOPER qualification test. 

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