June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
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.
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