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Is a Virtual Reality-based Laboratory Experience a Viable Alternative to the Real Thing?

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Division for Experimentation & Lab-oriented Studies Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

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Paper Authors


James R. McCusker Ph.D. Wentworth Institute of Technology

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James R. McCusker is an Associate Professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Since joining Wentworth in 2010, he has been heavily involved with an array of interdisciplinary design courses that range from introductory to capstone courses.

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Mohammed A. Almaghrabi Wentworth Institute of Technology

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Mohammed A. Almaghrabi is a Trainee Engineer at ASM Process Automation, where he helps developing factory automation solutions for clients. He graduated from the University of the Wentworth Institute of Technology, with bechelors degree in Electromechanical Engineering in 2017.

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Bryon Kucharski Wentworth Institute of Technology

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Student at Wentworth Institute of Technology

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Laboratory practice is an important tool in the education of engineering students. It forms part of the important learning tools in the engineering curriculum. The practical aspect of a laboratory based education provides a tactile experience for students and thus gives students an opportunity to understand concepts and prepare them for the engineering job market. One of the challenges faced by most institutions is that most laboratory equipment and machines are costly and thus a viable alternative option should be sought. This has called for the adoption of the Virtual Reality based laboratory experiments that provide the laboratory based instructional experience similar to a real laboratory set up, yet utilizes a three-dimensional projection that gives the student an opportunity to carry out experiments virtually and achieve instant results. In this study, a practical laboratory experience is provided through the use of three-dimensional projections of a real laboratory set up. For easy learning, the students are familiarized with the equipment through the provision of the real-world electronic bench equipment and simple electronic components resembling the real laboratory environment. The students are provided the opportunity to learn basic experimental tasks that are relevant to their field of study. In this manner, the students engage in material at a faster rate and gain a tactile understanding of concepts at a reduced cost to the institution. The effectiveness of the Virtual Reality laboratory is studied using three sets of engineering students. Moreover, students are selected randomly based on their experience with Virtual Reality, past experience with the electrical sources, electrical components, and their selected major. The sets of students include those who have experienced an actual laboratory experience, those who have experienced the Virtual Reality based laboratory, and a third group who have experienced both real and Virtual Reality based laboratory. Using common quizzes, each set of students is assessed for the ability to identify and describe the uses of various laboratory equipment. Through the assessment, the viability of the Virtual Reality based laboratory is studied regarding the effectiveness as an education tool. Recommendations are also made for institutions interested in designing similar experiences.

McCusker, J. R., & Almaghrabi, M. A., & Kucharski, B. (2018, June), Is a Virtual Reality-based Laboratory Experience a Viable Alternative to the Real Thing? Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30733

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