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Utilizing AR Sandboxes for Civil and Construction Engineering Education

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2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference


Corvallis, Oregon

Publication Date

March 20, 2019

Start Date

March 20, 2019

End Date

March 22, 2019

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Joseph Louis Oregon State University

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Civil and Construction Engineering (CCE) is a discipline that seeks to engineer and transform the physical world around us, yet students in classrooms are limited to studying and applying concepts predominantly on paper or computer screens. These traditional mediums of instruction and practice create a disconnect between the concepts learned in class and their application in the field. A similar disconnect exists between the designers and builders of civil infrastructure, who necessarily work in two different environments (the office vs. the field). This disconnect is usually bridged only after the student has spent sufficient time out in the field and is struck by the inevitable, but much delayed “a-ha” moment - a congruence achieved when abstract concepts are finally placed within their rightful physical context. This research seeks to remedy this situation by proposing the use of Augmented Reality (AR) sandboxes to bring the vastness of the physical environment that characterizes the problem domains of civil and construction engineering and the students will eventually be working in, into the classroom. The AR sandbox, through its seamless blending of virtual content within a tangible interface, has immense potential to deliver concepts to students in an intuitive and engaging manner to obviate that disconnect. Because the surface of the sandbox can be intuitively fashioned to represent a scaled-down version of the wide range of terrain found in the physical world, this tool can demonstrate not just the application of classroom concepts, but even their development from first principles. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the AR Sandbox for civil and construction engineering education, a prototype application was developed to replace the traditional mode of teaching mass-haul diagrams for earthwork planning. Whereas traditional planning utilized static two-dimensional profile and plan views of three-dimensional terrain and roadways, this tool will enable the students to use their own hands to both construct roadways and modify surrounding terrain, while providing them with real-time quantitative feedback about the earthwork quantities involved. A description of the AR Sandbox is provided along with the software architecture that is created to enable course delivery to meet the related learning objectives for earthwork planning. The performance of the system is described along with a list of anticipated benefits to learning, particularly towards kinesthetic learners. Finally, the research identifies applications in other areas of civil engineering such as transportation, coastal, and water resource engineering that involve significant concepts that require intuitive understanding of physical terrains.

Louis, J. (2019, March), Utilizing AR Sandboxes for Civil and Construction Engineering Education Paper presented at 2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference, Corvallis, Oregon.

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