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Development of Nanoscale Virtual Reality Simulations for the Teaching of Nanotechnology

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Computers and Simulation

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.463.1 - 25.463.11



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Paper Authors


Xiaobo Peng Prairie View A&M University

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Xiaobo Peng is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Prairie View A&M University. His research interests include CAD/CAM, haptics, solid modeling, virtual reality, and virtual product design. Peng is a member of ASEE and ASME.

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Blesson Isaac Prairie View A&M University


Richard T. Wilkins Prairie View A&M University

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Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

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Development of Nanoscale Virtual Reality Simulations for the Teaching of NanotechnologyAbstractThe paper presents the development of a series of 3D Virtual Reality (VR) based applications todisplay nano structures using PowerWall System - a large scale Virtual Reality System. Theusers can fully immerse themselves in the nano world and interact with various nano structuresotherwise is impossible with their bare eyes. Another objective of this project is to study howeffectively and efficiently the virtual reality simulations can enhance the users’ understanding ofnanoscale science and engineering concepts.A new PowerWall VR system has recently been set up at the Virtual Prototyping ResearchLaboratory. The Powerwall system consists of large-scale Active Stereo PowerWall, StereoEyewear and Emitters, Computer System, Tracking System, and Haptic Device. The concepts ofnanotechnology are difficult for students to grasp. With the help of virtual reality technology, thenanosimulations will engage the users in a 3D VR environment. The users can play an active rolein the simulations to explore the nanostructures. Thus the nanosimulations will help to enhancethe students’ understanding and perception of nanotechnology.Currently three simulations have been developed, including "understanding the scale ofnanotube", "understanding different structures of nanomaterials", and "understanding thechirality of nanotube". The 3D models of nano structures were created using software NanotubeModeler. The models were then imported into Vizard. The applications were developed usingVizard so that the users can interact with the nano models.The nano-simulations have been integrated in the teaching of course ELEG4223 “Photonic andElectronic Materials and Devices”. Twenty one (21) students participated in the nano virtualreality simulations as part of their class. The students then completed a quiz and a survey aboutthe simulations. The survey results will be presented in this paper. Students’ responses are verypositive. They believe that the virtual reality simulations are very helpful in increasing theirunderstanding of nanotechnology. They want to use more virtual reality simulations.

Peng, X., & Isaac, B., & Wilkins, R. T. (2012, June), Development of Nanoscale Virtual Reality Simulations for the Teaching of Nanotechnology Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21221

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