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Application of a Virtual Environment for Education on the Construction Process of the Colosseum of Rome

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Approaches to Virtual Learning

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Adrian Hadipriono Tan The Ohio State University

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Adrian H. Tan is a Ph.D. alumnus from the Ohio State University. Adrian has a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the Ohio State University. Adrian's dissertation work concerned ancient civil engineering and construction with a focus on computer graphics and virtual simulation in the engineering industry.

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Fabian Hadipriono Tan P.E. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

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Fabian Hadipriono Tan has worked in the areas of construction of infrastructures and buildings, failure assessment of buildings and bridges, construction accident investigations, forensic engineering, ancient buildings, ancient bridges, and the ancient history of science and engineering for over 40 years. The tools he uses include fault tree analysis, fuzzy logic, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality.

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Michael Parke The Ohio State University

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Dr. Parke has over twenty years experience in satellite based earth science research. He has been teaching first year engineering for the past seventeen years, with emphasis on computer aided design, computer programming, and project design and documentation.

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Tarunjit Singh Butalia The Ohio State University

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The education of engineering in the classroom has relied on increasingly advanced technologies throughout the years, up to and including modern computer graphics and digital simulation. This is partly due to the field of engineering itself putting these technologies to use and updating their methodologies to accommodate the advent of the digital age. One of the most valuable innovations for both education and engineering has been the field of virtual environments, which are defined as simulations of data and methods created and presented in a wholly or partially digital space. Virtual environments can be presented in the form of either augmented reality, which superimposes digital content over a live feed of a physical setting, or virtual reality, which presents the digital space alone and enables students to navigate and interact with objects and settings within this space. A virtual environment is an ideal tool for students to observe engineering techniques and concepts with minimal expense and in relative safety. For this research, the project being demonstrated is not a modern construction project, but an ancient one, the Colosseum of Rome. This integration of history, engineering, and computer science can introduce students to a variety of topics such as material science, engineering physics, Classical architecture, and digital graphics. For this particular simulation, the virtual environment was rendered using a graphics pipeline representing the components of the structure as individual pieces which could, in theory, be assembled into a complete structure in a specific order based on how the walls, support piers, concrete arches, and floors of each story were in the two decades during which the actual structure was built, starting from ca. 79 AD. From there, these digital assets were compiled in a virtual environment which was presented to a sample student test body via a virtual reality simulation employing a personal computer and the Oculus Rift headset. Each student would navigate through the erection process of the Colosseum, level by level, including infographics describing specific engineering aspects and methodologies used throughout the construction of the monument. The results of this simulation were graded based on both the historical accuracy of the simulation and the clarity of the presentation. Accuracy was graded as being largely positive, thanks to the intensive research employed in all steps of the virtual environment creation process; however, clarity received somewhat lower grades due to the limited processing power of the CPU compared with the amount of environment detail resulting in a lower frame rate than expected. It is likely that with a stronger processor and more efficient data conservation, the framerate issue can be remedied in a future simulation to improve the clarity score for the simulation. Whatever the test results, these surveys are a clear demonstration that virtual environments can be a powerful educational tool in terms of instructing students about both construction and computer simulation. It is hoped that virtual environments can be employed for many future simulations in construction engineering, history, and architecture.

Tan, A. H., & Tan, F. H., & Parke, M., & Butalia, T. S. (2017, June), Application of a Virtual Environment for Education on the Construction Process of the Colosseum of Rome Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27595

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