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Development of Haptic Virtual Reality Gaming Environments for Teaching Nanotechnology

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.495.1 - 22.495.19



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Paper Authors

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David Jackson VCU Haptics Lab


Dianne T.V. Pawluk Virginia Commonwealth University

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Dianne Pawluk (Ph.D., Harvard) is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University. She teaches courses in the areas of computational methods, haptics and rehabilitation engineering. Her active research areas include haptic perceptual organization, the development of haptic assistive devices and methods for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, and the effective use of haptics in education. (Contact:

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Curtis R. Taylor University of Florida Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Curtis Taylor, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida. His research focuses on understanding and developing new technologies (mechanical, electronic, optical, or biological) that utilize the unique capabilities of nanostructured/nanoscale materials. He works in both the Machine Tool Research Center and the Nanoscience Institute for Medical and Engineering Technology at UF. Before joining Florida, he was an Assistant Professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia where he was Director of VCU’s NanoManufacturing (NanoMan) lab. He received his B.S. degree (1998) in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland, and his M.S. (2002) and Ph.D. (2005) in electrical engineering and physics from the University of Arkansas. Before coming to Arkansas in 2000, he worked for one year as a software development project manager at Capital One Financial Corporation in Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Taylor has also held internship and research appointments with the U.S. Air Force, Central Intelligence Agency, United Technologies Corporation, and the National Center for Electron Microscopy at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Research interests include nanomanufacturing for the production of novel nanoelectronic and quantum devices, nanomechanical characterization of materials for development and improved reliability of nanodevices.

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Development of Haptic Virtual Reality Gaming Environments for Teaching NanotechnologyAbstractNanotechnology is a key high technology field that is becoming increasingly important to theUnited States’ economy. There is, therefore, a strong interest in attracting K-12 andundergraduate students to pursue future careers in this area. However, how things interact at thesmall scale of a nano-environment can be difficult for students to conceptualize. One aspect thatis fundamental to this conceptualization is how the forces between elements interact at this level.We are developing a teaching module for K-12 students about the forces that exist at thenanoscale and how they’re involved in nanofabrication. There are four important components ofthe module’s design for engaging students: the use of a virtual environment, the use of hapticfeedback, creating a macro-world comparison to the nano-environment, and making the moduleinto a game. A virtual environment enables us to rapidly and easily create new environments atlow cost. Also, it allows for creating environments that cannot occur in the real world (e.g.,“turning off” gravity). The use of haptic feedback allows students to feel real, tangible forces inthe ‘nano’ virtual environment, thereby allowing them to experience the “invisible”. Also, somestudents learn most effectively through physical manipulation than by visual or auditory means.Thus the module engages multiple learning styles. Another expected key component is thedevelopment of a macro-world for comparison so that students can relate their experience towhat they will observe to be “normal” in the real world. Finally, the module was turned into agame to further engage and excite students. Learning is more effective when it engages students’attention and they are attracted to what is occurring for intrinsic rewards. All four of thesecomponents contribute to the active learning process.The module is being developed for the NOVINT Falcon Force Feedback Device ($189). Thisallows for 3 DOF (x,y and z) for both motion and force. Currently the module consists of twovisual-haptic environments that can interact with the user. One environment works at the macro-scale in terms of allowing the user to create a house with bricks. The forces that can be felt (orturned-off) in this environment are gravity and inertia. When a brick is placed on the structurebeing built a new brick is placed in their hands. They are able to feel the weight of the brick andto feel inertia when they move it. In addition, the brick can fall or be thrown, and the structurecan collapse if the brick is not placed correctly. For the nanoscale, the user is given a set ofatoms which they can use to build a “house” at the nanoscale. In this environment, they are ableto feel the predominance of van der Waals forces, the “snap to contact” phenomenon andadhesion forces. Currently the program consists of an initial “starting” atom for the structure andanother atom placed in the user’s hand. The user is able to feel the pull of the “fixed” atom onthe atom being held, including the snap to contact and adhesion, then release, when it is beingmoved away. Future plans are to complete and more formally test the effectiveness of themodule, and to add sonification (the use of non-speech sounds) in substitution of the visualcomponent for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

Jackson, D., & Pawluk, D. T., & Taylor, C. R. (2011, June), Development of Haptic Virtual Reality Gaming Environments for Teaching Nanotechnology Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17776

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