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No Food Allowed The Latest Virtual Reality Laboratory Accident

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

The Computer, the Web, and the ChE

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.886.1 - 7.886.7



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Paper Authors

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John Bell

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Scott Fogler

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 3413

No Food Allowed – The Latest Virtual Reality Laboratory Accident

John T. Bell and H. Scott Fogler

University of Illinois Chicago / University of Michigan Ann Arbor

The authors of this paper are in the middle of a multi-year project to create, distribute, and evaluate a series of virtual reality based laboratory accidents, with the dual goals of promoting lab safety and determining the optimal applicability of this medium for this purpose. This paper describes the current status of the project, with special emphasis on the most recently developed accident, involving food in a laboratory.


People who are given a long list of written laboratory safety rules will follow those rules for only a certain length of time before they become complacent and forgetful. Anyone who has ever experienced an actual accident, however, will remember that experience much longer than any set of written rules. Obviously, it is not practical to deliberately cause accidents just to illustrate and emphasize lab safety procedures. Virtual reality offers an alternative that lies somewhere between written rules and real experiences for its overall effectiveness.

Virtual reality, ( VR ), is an interactive immersive three-dimensional computer technology with the overall goal of creating a first-person experiential simulation so realistic and believable that users cannot distinguish it from the real thing. In practice, different implementations of VR approach this goal to a greater or lesser extent. High-end ( multi-million dollar ) systems can indeed produce simulations sufficiently effective to make users forget that it is just a simulation. Low-end ( student-affordable ) systems are not nearly as effective, but are continuously improving as personal computer speeds and graphics cards improve, and as special VR technology becomes more readily available to the consumer market.

The primary goal of the current project is to develop a series of VR-based laboratory accidents, in a variety of student accessible formats. A set of lab safety rules has been selected that are both commonly applicable to a wide variety of laboratory settings and also practicable to implement using VR. For each rule, users have the option of either obeying the rule or not, and then experiencing first-hand the resulting consequences. A second goal of the project is to experiment with different implementations of VR, to determine which is ( are ) the most effective for delivering the desired experience to the intended audience.

This project was originally started at the VRiChEL ( Virtual Reality in Chemical Engineering Laboratory ) in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan[1], and is now continuing at the VRUPL ( Virtual Reality Undergraduate Projects Laboratory ) at the University of Illinois Chicago[2]. Project results and other information are freely available from the VRUPL web site[2].

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Bell, J., & Fogler, S. (2002, June), No Food Allowed The Latest Virtual Reality Laboratory Accident Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10541

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