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Work in Progress: Networked Virtual Reality Environment for Teaching Concentrating Solar Power Technology

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Computers in Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Kenneth A. Ritter III University of Louisiana, Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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My name is Kenneth (Kary) Ritter, I am a US citizen, male and am a graduate student in Systems Engineering with expected graduation in August 2016. I have Masters of Science in Solar Energy Engineering and have been working on a scale 3D model of an actual alternative energy center which was turned into an interactive walk through educational game for use with Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and interaction devices. Currently I am developing and testing an immersive networked collaborative VR environment for education about concentrating solar thermal power.

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Terrence L. Chambers PE University of Louisiana, Lafayette

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Terrence Chambers serves as an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His research interests include engineering design and optimization, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and alternative energy. He is an active member of ASEE, ASME, LES, and is a registered Professional Engineer in Louisiana.

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Christoph W. Borst University of Louisiana, Lafayette

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Christoph W. Borst received a BS degree in computer science from the University of Texas and a PhD in computer science from Texas A&M University. He is an associate professor at the Center for Advanced Computer Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His research areas include visualization, 3D interaction, and haptics. His recent work in these areas included virtual reality techniques for data exploration, telerobotics, and education.

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This paper presents the initial results of study on the use of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies for the purpose of teaching Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technology to high school students. Using CAD software, a scale model of an actual alternative energy research facility at the University of Louisiana was imported into a game engine to create a Virtual Energy Center (VEC) serious (educational) game. Interactive educational activities are throughout the Virtual Environment (VE), and the student completes them to virtually produce solar power. During this experience, the students learn about the major components of a CSP plant and how they work. Current work in progress is to use the Oculus Rift DK2 for immersive visuals and head tracking, Razer Hydra controllers for pointing-type tracked interactions and other inputs, and a second-generation Microsoft Kinect as a depth camera to capture a teacher or guide. With the Microsoft Kinect, a live 3D image of the solar energy expert is able to remotely interact with the high school students, answering questions and providing guidance. The VE has been built with networking capabilities so that multiple students can enter the 3D environment and interact with each other within the VEC. Several demonstrations have been performed and a pilot study with pre-test, post-test, and questionnaires were given to college and STEM high school students. Along with positive feedback about the experience there was a substantial improvement on the post-tests, showing that this type of application can be used as an educational tool.

Ritter, K. A., & Chambers, T. L., & Borst, C. W. (2016, June), Work in Progress: Networked Virtual Reality Environment for Teaching Concentrating Solar Power Technology Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27024

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