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Undergraduate Research Experiences Developing Virtual Reality Based Educational Modules

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.450.1 - 2.450.8



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John T. Bell

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

Session 2313

Session 2313

Undergraduate Research Experiences Developing Virtual Reality Based Educational Modules

John T. Bell Department of Chemical Engineering University of Michigan


Over the past several years a number of virtual reality ( VR ) based educational modules have been developed, using undergraduate chemical engineering students as the primary day-to-day program developers. These students had minimal computer programming and no VR experience prior to starting their projects, and some of the students had not yet completed the relevant engineering courses. There have been fourteen students involved in the project to date, over half of whom worked on the project for only a single term. This paper describes the experiences of this group, including the advantages and disadvantages to all concerned.

The Project

Virtual reality is a computer simulation technique that incorporates three-dimensional graphics, realistic sound, and often special devices to create an interactive immersive environment designed to convince the user that the simulation is real. It is our belief that VR can become a powerful new tool in chemical engineering, and especially in undergraduate engineering education. However before this new tool can be effectively applied, we must first learn its strengths, weaknesses, and optimal implementation. A series of VR based educational modules have therefore been developed, in order to explore the capabilities of this emerging technology. [ 1-7 ] The interested reader is directed to the listed references and to the laboratory web site at to learn more details of the VR modules.

The Students

There have been fourteen students involved in the project so far, including the current four who are just beginning their involvement. Thirteen have been either Junior or Senior chemical engineering students, and one is a Sophomore in mechanical engineering. The University of Michigan requires a freshman computing class of all engineering majors; However none of the students involved had chosen C programming ( most took FORTRAN ), and the Juniors and Seniors were very rusty on the programming that they had not used since their freshman year. Nine of the thirteen chemical engineering students had completed the chemical reaction engineering course ( the subject of the VR modules ) prior to starting work on the project. The other four chemical engineering students were taking the reactor design course concurrently with

Bell, J. T. (1997, June), Undergraduate Research Experiences Developing Virtual Reality Based Educational Modules Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6847

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