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Virtual Reality Laboratory Experiences for Electricity and Magnetism Courses

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Virtual Laboratories: Experimentation and Laboratory-oriented Studies

Tagged Division

Experimentation and Laboratory-Oriented Studies

Page Count

13

Permanent URL

https://strategy.asee.org/38025

Download Count

198

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Paper Authors

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Raluca Ilie University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-7305-2579

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Prof. Ilie is an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her primary research is the development and application of high-performance, first principles computational models to describe and predict the conditions in near-Earth space leading to geomagnetic storms.
Prof. Ilie’s focus is on developing new approaches to study the dynamics of plasmas and electromagnetic fields in the geospace environment and to advance the predictive capabilities of the complex dynamics occurring in the solar wind-magnetosphere-ionosphere system. She combines both theoretical and observational work to develop predictive tools that form the basis of operational warning systems and hazard mitigation.

Prof. Ilie earned her Ph.D in Space and Planetary Physics from the University of Michigan and has been an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, working on TWINS NASA space mission data. As part of the Center for the Space Environment Modeling at University of Michigan, she was a core member of the software developing team for the Space Weather Modeling Framework. She is a recent awardee of the Air Force Young Investigator Program (2017), NASA Heliophysics Early Career Investigator (2019), and NSF CAREER (2019) awards.

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Eric Shaffer University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

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Eric Shaffer is a Teaching Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science. He teaches a revolving set of courses including Virtual Reality, Computer Graphics, and Scientific Visualization. In addition to teaching, he has done research in the areas of scientific computing, computer graphics and visualization. He has served as a PI or co-PI on grants from a variety of sponsors, including Exxon-Mobil, the Boeing Company, Caterpillar, and the US Department of Energy. He holds an MS in Computer Science from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and a BS and PhD in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Cynthia Marie D'Angelo University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

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Cynthia D’Angelo, Ph.D., is a researcher specializing in science education, technology-enhanced learning environments (including simulations and games), and collaborative learning. She focuses on leveraging data gathered through innovative technologies to better understand student learning of STEM concepts and practices. She has a background in physics and science education.

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Daniel Cermak Illinois Informatics; University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

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Mei-Yun Lin University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

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Mei-Yun Lin is a Ph.D candidate in the department of electrical and computer engineering in the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She received her B.S. from National Taiwan University and M.S. from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is working with Prof. Raluca Ilie on the research of the space weather modeling and currently a software development manager in the virtual reality (VR) lab of ECE 329.

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Hsinju Chen University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-0592-3360

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Hsinju Chen is a PhD student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. They received the B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering and M.S. degree in Communication Engineering from National Taiwan University. Her previous works include developing modularized elements for hands-on antenna education in university classrooms. Now, she works with Professor Ilie on studying the impact of energetic heavy ions on the magnetosphere dynamics and as a teaching assistant for Fields & Waves Virtual Reality Laboratory.

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Abstract

A solid understanding of electromagnetic (E&M) theory is key to the education of electrical engineering students. However, these concepts are notoriously challenging for students to learn, due to the difficulty in grasping abstract concepts such as the electric force as an invisible force that is acting at a distance, or how electromagnetic radiation is permeating and propagating in space. Building physical intuition to manipulate these abstractions requires means to visualize them in a three-dimensional space. This project involves the development of 3D visualizations of abstract E&M concepts in Virtual Reality (VR), in an immersive, exploratory, and engaging environment.

VR provides the means of exploration, to construct visuals and manipulable objects to represent knowledge. This leads to a constructivist way of learning, in the sense that students are allowed to build their own knowledge from meaningful experiences. In addition, the VR labs replace the cost of hands-on labs, by recreating the experiments and experiences on Virtual Reality platforms.

The development of the VR labs for E&M courses involves four distinct phases: (I) Lab Design, (II) Experience Design, (III) Software Development, and (IV) User Testing. During phase I, the learning goals and possible outcomes are clearly defined, to provide context for the VR laboratory experience, and to identify possible technical constraints pertaining to the specific laboratory exercise. During stage II, the environment (the world) the player (user) will experience is designed, along with the foundational elements, such as ways of navigation, key actions, and immersion elements. During stage III, the software is generated as part of the course projects for the Virtual Reality course taught in the Computer Science Department at the same university, or as part of independent research projects involving engineering students. This reflects the strong educational impact of this project, as it allows students to contribute to the educational experiences of their peers. During phase IV, the VR experiences are played by different types of audiences that fit the player type. The team collects feedback and if needed, implements changes.

The pilot VR Lab, introduced as an additional instructional tool for the E&M course during the Fall 2019, engaged over 100 students in the program, where in addition to the regular lectures, students attended one hour per week in the E&M VR lab. Student competencies around conceptual understanding of electromagnetism topics are measured via formative and summative assessments. To evaluate the effectiveness of VR learning, each lab is followed by a 10-minute multiple-choice test, designed to measure conceptual understanding of the various topics, rather than the ability to simply manipulate equations.

This paper discusses the implementation and the pedagogy of the Virtual Reality laboratory experiences to visualize concepts in E&M, with examples for specific labs, as well as challenges, and student feedback with the new approach. We will also discuss the integration of the 3D visualizations into lab exercises, and the design of the student assessment tools used to assess the knowledge gain when the VR technology is employed.

Ilie, R., & Shaffer, E., & D'Angelo, C. M., & Cermak, D., & Lin, M., & Chen, H. (2021, July), Virtual Reality Laboratory Experiences for Electricity and Magnetism Courses Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://strategy.asee.org/38025

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