ISR: Grayscale and Screentime

The Independent Science Research program is a unique opportunity for motivated student scientists to explore independently or to contribute to ongoing experiments at Millbrook and beyond. The ISR is truly interdisciplinary and requires students to either design their experiments or to delve deeply into research that may be ongoing at the university level, all with the goal of presenting their findings. With 800 acres of wetlands, forest, and the Trevor Zoo, and a captive population of faculty and fellow students, unique ISR possibilities abound. Seven students are undertaking yearlong projects related to Covid, the environment, smartphone usage, and animal behavior. They will present their findings at the Science Symposium in May.
 Hanji Xu - A Colorful ISR
Hanji Xu ’21 has undertaken an especially relevant ISR project that investigates how smartphone screen time might relate to the visual stimulation users get from colorful apps and content. Recruiting Millbrook faculty and students as test subjects, Hanji’s experiment assigned a group of about 15 smartphone users to set their devices to grayscale display mode, removing all color from apps, photos, and websites. A second 15-person control group was tasked with trying to consciously limit their screen time with their devices in typical full-color mode. Both groups were required to record three weeks of usage statistics and submit videos of their stats for data analysis.
Thanks to privacy measures put in place by Apple and other software and hardware developers, Hanji’s data harvesting was arduous and time-consuming. She consulted a statistician for advice on compiling and analyzing the numbers and after amassing more data than she imagined, employed statistics software to help wrangle the numbers.
Hanji researched the existence of a comparable experiment on which to model her ISR but found only one other with even slightly similar goals, undertaken at the University of North Dakota. Her ISR seeking a possible connection between screen time and color content may be the first of its kind and Hanji is almost certainly the only high school student to conceive, design, and execute such a project. 
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