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May 23, 2017

Johns Hopkins APL Uses Virtual Reality to Teach Children of Servicemen and Women About Prosthetics

Missile children participating in the CONVEY virtual reality program

The CONVEY program (or Connecting STEM Outreach Now Using VIE Education for Youth), led by Johns Hopkins APL thanks to a grant from the Office of Naval Research, is educating the children of servicemen and women about prosthetics using virtual reality.
Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, is using a $375,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to educate the children of servicemen and women about prosthetics using virtual reality.

In a workshop beginning on June 3, 2017, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, APL’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Program Office will partner with ONR to encourage the children to develop their interest in STEM while enabling them to learn more about the prosthetics that help members of the military service community.

The CONVEY program (or Connecting STEM Outreach Now Using VIE Education for Youth) was piloted in April and will use a modified version of a virtual training platform APL developed to help amputees adapt quickly to operating its revolutionary Modular Prosthetic Limb. CONVEY is focused on interactive learning and teaches children about topics from biology to engineering.

“Our objective is to use the virtual training platform to enhance each child’s understanding of how STEM concepts and products are being used to enable personal independence, mobility and human interaction for their loved ones,” said Dwight Carr, APL STEM program manager. “It’s an engaging and interactive way to expand the use of the technology, while helping both the service members and their families.”

APL subject-matter experts in prosthetics and the virtual training platform worked with APL STEM office staff members to develop hands-on demonstrations for students and design multiday workshops and follow-on activities.

APL’s Modular Prosthetic Limb was developed as part of the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program — an ambitious multiyear program, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to create a neurally controlled artificial limb that restores near-natural motor and sensory capability to upper-extremity amputee patients. APL leads an interdisciplinary team consisting of other Johns Hopkins institutions, government agencies, universities and private firms to implement DARPA’s vision of providing the most advanced upper-extremity prosthesis.

APL’s STEM outreach efforts date back to 1976. Today, its educational initiatives reach about 3,500 students and community residents annually through programs like Girl Power, STEM Academy, the Maryland MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program, NASA education outreach programs, the ASPIRE high school mentoring program and APL’s College Prep Program.

Johns Hopkins APL is the nation’s largest university affiliated research center; an independent, nonprofit organization that conducts essential research, development and systems engineering for the nation. For 75 years, the Laboratory’s engineers and scientists have served as trusted advisors and technical experts to the government. The Lab also maintains independent research and development programs that pioneer and explore emerging technologies and concepts to address future national priorities.

For more information, please contact:

Gina Ellrich, 443-778-7796,

Media interested in attending are asked to register in advance with Gina Ellrich at the e-mail address above.

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit

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