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3 D Visualization For Civil Engineering Undergraduate Education

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Innovations in CE Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.5.1 - 10.5.6



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Paper Authors

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Kristine Martin

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Jeffrey Will

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1515

3-D Visualization for Civil Engineering Undergraduate Learning Kenneth R. Leitch, Kristine E. Martin, and Jeffrey D. Will College of Engineering, Valparaiso University

Introduction Civil engineering analysis and modeling frequently reduces 3-D land features and structures to 2-D representations on such media as paper and overhead projection systems. Students often have trouble understanding the 3-D aspect of civil engineering problems because of the limitations of conventional 2-D representations. Many students find it difficult to understand how landforms from a topographic survey will impact a construction project, where a watershed is located, how beams and columns are connected in a building frame, what work will need to be done to excavate a foundation, or how to lay out a roadway. With the advent of new computer technologies, it is possible to take numerical 3-D data and render virtual computer models that are presented in 3-D, enhancing the learning experience in relation to both analysis and design in the civil engineering curriculum [1].

To this end, the College of Engineering at Valparaiso University has established the Scientific Visualization Laboratory to improve the learning experience for students for 3-D concepts that are hard to represent in conventional 2-D space [2-4]. Examples include electromagnetic fields, complex organic molecules, microelectronic circuit fabrications, force vectors, moving machines and their individual parts, terrain models, buildings, and bridges. Furthermore, the time dimension can be incorporated to create a 4-D model that can show the change over time of a 3-D model due to motion, loading, modifications, deterioration, and environmental effects. This paper describes our extension to the existing work done by the Scientific Visualization Laboratory to improve teaching methods in civil engineering by utilizing the 3-D displays of virtual reality hardware.

Computer and Software Systems As computers increase in speed and processing capacity, prices continue to decrease, allowing greater access for consumer and educational use. Of note is the affordability of common PC computer systems that can power a 3-D model projection system, described in depth by Will and Johnson [2]. The advent of this technology brings the cost of virtual reality equipment, heretofore costing millions of dollars, down to the much more accessible price of $10,000 - $100,000. The equipment in this research uses this “low cost” virtual reality hardware.

In the present study, the VisBox™ virtual reality projection system was used in conjunction with a common PC running the Windows XP operating system. Three software applications were used: a common spreadsheet utility, AutoCAD Land Desktop [5], and Fledermaus [6], a graphing and visualization package for civil engineering data that has the capability of displaying on a 3-D projection screen. The spreadsheet utility

Martin, K., & Leitch, K., & Will, J. (2005, June), 3 D Visualization For Civil Engineering Undergraduate Education Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14558

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