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Scaling Hands-On Learning Principles in Manufacturing through Augmented Reality Disassembly and Inspection of a Consumer Product

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Manufacturing Division Session - Virtual and Augmented Reality

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Paper Authors


Emily Welsh Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Ms. Welsh works as an educational technologist at MIT. Her work includes the development and running of MOOCs and the development of digital education tools. Prior to joining MIT, she worked in industry at an original equipment manufacturer.

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Dan Li Massachusetts Institute of Technology


A. John Hart Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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John Hart is Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity, and Director of the Center for Additive and Digital Advanced Production Technologies (APT) at MIT. John’s research group at MIT, the Mechanosynthesis Group, aims to accelerate the science and technology of production via advancements in additive manufacturing, nanostructured materials, and precision machine design. John’s research and teaching accomplishments have been recognized by awards from the United States NSF, ONR, AFOSR, DARPA, ASME, and SME, by two R&D 100 awards, and most recently by the MIT Ruth and Joel Spira Award for Distinguished Teaching in Mechanical Engineering and the MIT Keenan Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education. John has co-authored >175 journal publications and is co-inventor on >50 pending and issued patents. He is a co-founder of startup companies Desktop Metal and VulcanForms, and is a Board Member of Carpenter Technology Corporation. John also created the world’s first massive open online course on manufacturing processes (MIT 2.008x on edX), and leads MIT’s online additive manufacturing certificate program, which has educated thousands of professionals since its launch in 2018.

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John Liu Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Dr. John Liu has taught classes in a number of departments ranging from Mechanical Engineering, Media Lab, and Physics at MIT and universities in Singapore and Taiwan. He is a Lecturer and Researcher in the Mechanical Engineering Department and a Scientist of the MITx Digital Learning Laboratory.

As the former Director of the Principles of Manufacturing MicroMasters Program, he facilitated a team of faculty and instructors to develop content and innovate manufacturing education at MIT using digital technology. His current interests include engineering education, mixed reality and haptic experiences, workforce solutions to address the nation-wide manufacturing skills gap, open-ended assessments for scalable education settings, instructional design theory for massively open online courses, and medical device design. Dr. Liu earned his B.S. in Applied Physics from Caltech and S.M. and Ph.D. and S.M. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, under an MIT-SUTD fellowship and NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

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Visualization, contextualization, and hands-on experiences are key to effective engineering education, and go hand-in-hand with the understanding of theoretical concepts. Learners must employ highly-developed visual and spatial thinking, yet teaching still often relies on two-dimensional boards and screens to render inherently three-dimensional concepts. Limitations to resources (e.g., equipment or machine shop access), geography, and safety considerations constrain the learner's opportunity to see or perform authentic hands-on activities. Augmented Reality (AR) provides a compelling opportunity to address these gaps because of its inherent three dimensionality, connection to the learner’s physical context, scalability, and responsiveness. Unlike Virtual Reality, wherein interactive headsets cost hundreds of dollars each, many AR apps are hosted through the ubiquitous smartphone and would therefore increase the feasibility of implementation for a wider range of institutions of higher learning. However, AR instruction is a relatively new and growing research field and the assessment of learning gains has primarily focused on lower level cognitive skills.

We present the pedagogy, design and development, and course implementation of a vision-based AR app to teach higher level cognitive skills in Bloom’s taxonomy: apply, analyze, and evaluate. The app enables learners to manipulate, and virtually disassemble various parts and products (representing high-volume manufacturing processes), while receiving scaffolded guidance. We used an iterative process to design the app by implementing user feedback. The app has now been released into an online manufacturing course (Fundamentals of Manufacturing Processes).

Learner reflections reveal engagement with manufacturing analysis, experience of the app, and attitudes towards AR technology. The development of a codebook was used to evaluate learner reflections with the goal of understanding the opportunities learners have to engage with manufacturing analysis. The iterative development of the codebook and results of applying the codebook to learner reflections are reported; overall inter-rater reliability computed using Cohen’s Alpha is 85.48%. The experience feedback indicates that the activity was well received with 70% of users indicating an overall positive experience using the app. 79% of attitude feedback was positive indicating that learners are interested in using AR applications. AR-augmented instruction is a cost-effective approach that makes accessible time- and resource-constrained hands-on activities through virtualization, and bridges the gap between in-person and fully virtual instruction. Ongoing work is extending the AR platform to additional manufacturing processes, products, and components.

Welsh, E., & Li, D., & Hart, A. J., & Liu, J. (2021, July), Scaling Hands-On Learning Principles in Manufacturing through Augmented Reality Disassembly and Inspection of a Consumer Product Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37699

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