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Virtual Reality For 3 D Visualization In A Statics Course

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Innovative Techniques

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1454.1 - 10.1454.10



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Paper Authors

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Chris Graunke

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Jeffrey Will

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Peter Johnson

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

Session 1160

Virtual Reality for 3D Visualization in a Statics Course Peter E. Johnson1, Jeffrey D. Will2, and Christopher R. Graunke2 1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, Valparaiso University 2 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Valparaiso University

Introduction Learning subjects in the sciences or engineering require the ability of students to think in three dimensions. However, this is one of the greatest challenges to students [1]. Even in the best students, these skills are typically underdeveloped [2]. There is a great need for students to be taught how to understand and visualize spatial relationships [3], yet research is sparse in this area.

One particular area of science and engineering that heavily relies on students’ abilities in visualizing objects and their relationships in 3D is statics. Often taken early in the student’s study, most students come into the subject having little 3D visualization ability, which is a great challenge for them. Thus, statics courses are typically “training grounds” for students to develop visualization acuity as well as learn to solve for forces and masses in diagrams.

Hardware to display 3D models and interact with them has been in existence for several decades, though only since 1993 has it seen applications in education [4]. Educational advances have increased since that time, albeit slowly. Important advances include Christopher Dede’s application of visualization hardware to general scientific concepts [5] and the teaching of electromagnetics in particular with the well-known MaxwellWorld [6]. Other applications include education of elementary school students in basic zoological concepts at Georgia Tech [7, 8], the NICE project for elementary education at the University of Illinois at Chicago [9]-[11], and engineering education research at East Carolina University [12].

This paper describes work done to study subjects in a statics class taught at Valparaiso University as to the development of their ability to visualize in 3D. Four different media were explored, from paper-and-pencil to a fully immersive virtual reality experience. Wide-ranging data in this course was collected, and its analysis is here presented. A framework for analyzing virtual reality media for applications in education is included. Special effort is directed towards practicality in the field of engineering education, i.e., analyzing the cost to benefit ratio of using different teaching technologies. Lessons learned from this experiment are included.

A key factor in the utility of this work is that only recently have virtual reality hardware systems become financially available to primarily undergraduate institutions. A new kind of stripped-down virtual reality display has emerged that makes the technology affordable to most. Thus, bringing virtual reality into the classroom and assessing the cost benefit ratio from a student cognition standpoint is of special interest at the present time.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Graunke, C., & Will, J., & Johnson, P. (2005, June), Virtual Reality For 3 D Visualization In A Statics Course Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14248

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