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Work in Progress Pilot Study: Virtual Reality for Computational Thinking Foundations and STEM Enrichment

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering Design Graphics Division Technical Session 2: VR, AR, and CAD

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

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Paper Authors


Katherine Levenick Shirey EduKatey Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Katey Shirey graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Physics and a B.A. in Sculpture (minor in art history). After teaching sculpture at UVA as an Aunspaugh Fellow, she completed her Masters of Teaching in secondary science also at UVA. Dr. Shirey taught high school physics in Arlington, VA, for five years and became a Knowles Teacher Initiative Teaching Fellow. During this time, she served as a teacher liaison to the IceCube Neutrino Telescope at the South Pole and was a NASA astronaut candidate finalist in 2013. Dr. Shirey earned her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in 2017 after transitioning to study engineering integration in high school instruction as a site of creative thinking in physics learning. As founder and consultant for eduKatey, LLC, Dr. Shirey works with educators around the world to integrated science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics content areas through curriculum development, professional learning, and research.

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Magesh Chandramouli Purdue University Northwest Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Chandramouli is an Associate Professor of Computer Graphics Technology in Purdue University Northwest. Dr. Chandramouli has been invited to deliver keynote speeches and guest lectures in various countries around the world. Formerly a Frederick Andrews Fellow at Purdue University, West Lafayette, he completed his doctoral studies from the Department of Computer Graphics Technology. He completed Master of Engineering at the National University of Singapore and Master of Science from the University of Calgary, Canada. He completed his Bachelor of Engineering from the College of Engineering, Guindy, India. Dr. Chandramouli has published journal articles in prestigious international journals and has presented papers in respected national and international conferences. He has received federal, regional, and international grants for his work in areas including virtual reality, STEM education, Human Computer Interaction, and Genetic Algorithms in Graphics.

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This paper presents the pilot study of a web-based desktop virtual reality (VR) instructional framework used to teach computational thinking (CT) concepts to secondary students. Classroom CT instructional practices are vastly underexplored in research on adolescent beginning programmers. Training in computational thinking, requires a firm grasp of various components ranging from fundamental aspects. The study’s objective was to create a VR platform consisting of four VR learning modules to teach data types, conditionals, loops, and operators. Each module developed one CT topic with engaging interactive activities, animated models, and games with built-in self-assessment.

This paper details the modules’ development, deployment, and outcomes related to the use of the VR modules within a science and math enrichment camp focused on learning engineering design and coding. The study assessed student use of the four CT topics in their final design project—a coded personal reflection. A lack of the fundamental understanding of CT concepts is a critical factor in STEM attrition rates as CT skills are highly interconnected to various branches of engineering and technology. So, we employ a CT perspective to deliver essential skills related to STEM concepts to facilitate skills transfer including problem solving and critical thinking. Students’ final projects were analyzed including a block-coded animation or app in and a written summary of the project, as well as an “artist statement” that was required to relate the CT topics to the project’s program. Data analysis is still underway. Early conclusions indicate that explicit development of each CT topic was useful for project success if the coding platform also scaffolded coding using identical language as the modules (for loops to for loops, for example.) Potential impacts of this study include recommendations for introducing CT topics to high school beginning coders.

Shirey, K. L., & Chandramouli, M. (2021, July), Work in Progress Pilot Study: Virtual Reality for Computational Thinking Foundations and STEM Enrichment Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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