SimUfish: An Interactive Application to Teach K-12 Students About Zebrafish Behavior

Violet Mwaffo, Veronika Korneyeva, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As the zebrafish is rapidly becoming a species of choice in preclinical research, several efforts are being placed toward creating educational programs for K-12 students based on this promising model organism. However, as any other model organisms, the use of zebrafish in classroom settings requires additional experimental resources and poses ethical challenges related to animal use. To mitigate these factors, we have developed an application (app), simUfish, which implements a mathematical model of zebrafish behavior for generating multiple fish trajectories and animating their body undulations. simUfish is developed using a multiplatform game engine and is expected to promote the knowledge of zebrafish behavior to both K-12 students and the general public. Specifically, it demonstrates basic principles of fish individual and social behaviors, including environment interaction; fear response toward a predator; shoaling; and attraction toward a stimulus, which can be a food source or simply a finger placed on the touch screen. The effectiveness of the app as an accessible experimental tool for learning was tested in an outreach activity on middle school students from the New York City school system. The results from this activity show an immediate, tangible improvement of students' satisfaction and willingness to learn about key concepts on zebrafish behavior, accompanied by high level of interest in life sciences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-488
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Danio rerio
  • app
  • behavior
  • mathematical model
  • simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology


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