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Virtual Reality Tools For Enhancing Interactive Learning

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1404.1 - 9.1404.13



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Paper Authors

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David Brigham

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Angran Xiao

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Kenneth Bryden

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

Session 2004-1793

Virtual Reality Tools for Enhancing Interactive Learning

Angran Xiao 1, Kenneth Bryden 1*, David Brigham 2 1 Department of Mechanical Engineering, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50014 2 Iowa BioDevelopment, Indian Hills Community College, Ottumwa, IA 52501


Virtual reality (VR) technology is capable of constructing a user-centered, three-dimensional environment that is familiar to the student onto which abstract and complex information can be imposed. This virtual environment can stimulate interactive learning and comprehension, which are essential in engineering education. Despite these advantages, there are several barriers to the use of virtual reality in engineering education, including a lack of simple, easy-to-use, low cost software that can enable the instructor to build virtual environments for educational use. In this paper, we discuss our experiences in developing a virtual education program in biotechnology for Indian Hills Community College. This discussion includes the development of VE-Suite, an extensible, cross-platform, open source, freely downloadable library of tools that enable engineering education in a virtual environment. Using this software, a virtual fermentor was developed, which not only allows students to explore the inner workings of the fermentation tank, but also to be able to simulate the fermentation process so they can test-run the virtual fermentor by varying the operation parameters and observe the results instantly. Finally, a human factor experiment was conducted to study the effectiveness of different data visualization methods that should be used in the virtual fermentor at facilitating students’ self-paced learning.

1. Education Enhancement Using Virtual Reality

The rapid advancement of technology requires that engineering students master an increasing amount of abstract knowledge to remain competitive in today’s job market. However, in recent years, there has been an increasing concern that the current higher education system is not adapted to this pace of change. Many educators believe that traditional engineering education must be improved by using innovative educational materials and methods. Joseph Bordogna, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer of NSF, addressed the 2002 National Advances in Technological Education (ATE) Principal Investigators Conference, saying that the rapid pace and increasing complexity of technological change “has irreversibly altered how we prepare ourselves to understand, control, shape, and embrace and

* Corresponding Author: Associate Professor. 3030 Black Engineering Bldg, Iowa State University, Ames, IA50011 Phone/Fax: 515-294-3891/3261. Email: Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ® 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Brigham, D., & Xiao, A., & Bryden, K. (2004, June), Virtual Reality Tools For Enhancing Interactive Learning Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--12847

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