3D Augmented Reality Sandbox

Academic Enrichment Grant

 2016-2017 Project Summary

Ron Fritz

Athens Area High School • Athens, PA

This project will support the creation of an augmented reality 3D sandbox that can be used in a new STEM Maker Space room for an elementary school in the school district as an inquiry based way of teaching earth science concepts and preparing students to master important grade level objectives through hands-on investigation, prediction, and conducting simulations.

Project awardee, Ron Fritz, created a similar sandbox in his high school and would like to see students in an elementary school benefit from the learning experience as well.

The goal of this project is to develop a real-time integrated augmented reality sandbox to allow students to physically create topography models that are scanned into a computer in real time. These models can be used as background for a variety of simulations. The 3D sandbox will be used as a self-contained system that can be used as a hands-on lab in the maker space room. The unit has a few components including an Intel or AMD based computer running Linux, a Kinect camera, a projector, sandbox, and sand.

The sandbox is an interactive way to teach geography using inquiry to guide the learner through the learning process. The 3D sandbox works by taking images of the sandbox with an Xbox Kinect camera and sending the data to the computer. Next, the topographic surface is then rendered from the point of view of a data projector suspended above the sandbox. The end result is a projected topography that exactly matches the real sand topography that one shapes with their hands in the sandbox. The sandbox is intended to bring a hands-on approach to the teaching of earth science.

3D augmented reality sandboxes have started to work their way into education as an interactive tool for teaching topography and erosion. This technology takes an abstract concept that in the past were taught with and demonstrated with maps, images and graphics. The technology allows the learner to be actively engaged in the learning process. Inquiry can be used to guide the students in the learning experience and they can see what happens and compare it to predictions prior to the simulations. Since many of the students are from families that have an agricultural background, learning about erosion and topography play a direct role in their lives since it is involved with their family’s livelihood. In Pennsylvania there are keystone exams that are taken by students in elementary school. The 3D sandbox and inquiry based teaching will help students master concepts they will be assessed on in these tests.

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