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Arnold School of Public Health


EXSC undergrad Lily Gullion is crowdfunding a summer trip to the Netherlands to test video games' utility in measuring social skills related to autism

April 21, 2015 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Junior Lily Gullion believes computer games can be used to assess the social skills of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder to gauge their progress in relation to intervention therapies. An exercise science major in the Arnold School of Public Health,  Gullion has been working with Assistant Professor Roger Newman-Norlund (Department of Exercise Science) for the past year researching the feasibility of her mentor’s theory-driven computer games to measure teamwork skills.

“Quantifying teamwork skills is traditionally a difficult feat,” says Gullion. “But these computer games generate numerical data that represent each player’s performance.” After testing the games in a community setting, Gullion is convinced that they can be used to evaluate the social skills of those with autism or other social impairments. The games can be used to provide objective measures to compare performance at various stages throughout the intervention period.

In order to be fully effective, however, the games need improvement and further validation. “Unfortunately, there is not enough research going on locally to complete the analysis,” Gullion says. “Yet there are a few experts in the field of social motor control, located at Radboud University in the Netherlands, who are currently conducting this type of research.” She plans to travel there this summer to learn from these researchers and further test the video games’ validity. In addition, the trip will allow her to finalize the adjustments needed to prepare the games for practical use.

Guillion has already been awarded a $1,000 Magellan MiniGrant and a $3,000 Magellan Scholar grant, but she will need a total of $6,000 in order to meet expenses for the summer trip. In an effort to help university members fund their projects during a time of fierce competition for research dollars, the Office of the Vice President for Research is sponsoring a crowdfunding program in which they will match up to 50 percent of funds raised through this method for eligible research projects. The incentive is available for projects that are accepted by and funded through the scientific crowdfunding site, Experiment.com—the Office of the Vice President for Research’s ongoing partner in crowdfunding.

In fact, another Arnold School team (Allison Randel-COMD, Jessica Chandler-EXSC and Keith Brazendale-EXSC) is currently using this program to fund a project that will examine the effectiveness of physical activity interventions for youth with autism. To learn more about how Gullion has set up her crowdfunding campaign or to contribute to her project, visit her page on Experiment’s site.