Home » VR-REU 2024 » Immersive Content for Interdisciplinary STEM Education

Immersive Content for Interdisciplinary STEM Education

Cason Allen, Florida A & M University

Week 1: 

This REU opened up with a social event where Dr. Wole took our cohort to bowl. It was fun, as I had the opportunity to meet the other students in the program. The following day commenced the first official day of the REU, where we toured Hunter College and were given an introduction to some of the mentors. The week progressed with meeting my mentor Kendra Krueger, where we started formulating ideas for the project I would be engaging in this summer. With my project relating to how the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) is involved in STEM education and outreach, it was nice to see how field trips at the CUNY Graduate Center are conducted and how they aim to teach students in the short time they have. This set the stage for what my project proposal would look like, as I spent much of the rest of the week doing research on the different ways to go about the project and brainstorming methods to conduct it. In addition, we ran through the first couple of lectures in Dr. Wole’s Introduction to Virtual Reality class and gained an introduction to the software Paraview. Seeing how much we have done in such a short amount of time, I am excited about what the next 7 weeks have in store in this REU.


Week 2: 

This week, I met with Kendra to further discuss my project’s expectations. With this project primarily being a visualization tool for various instruments within the ASRC, its accessibility must be more open to the public. Therefore, I aim to create a desktop visualization program and, if there is any time, create a VR version. For this tool, I have started finding objects to create the virtual object library needed and have scratched the surface of what can be done in Unity. Unfortunately, I could not explore as much as I needed to due to getting sick mid-week, so moving forward, I will have to catch up and stay on track. In addition, I have been working on my literature review, gaining a couple more sources revolving around augmented reality in STEM education and assessing student learning outcomes. I was able to continue my paper by implementing this into Overleaf, and moving forward, I will be starting my methodology and meeting with a researcher at the ASRC to see how some of the instruments operate. If I can not find digital models for such instruments, I may have to recreate them in SolidWorks.


Week 3: 

This week, I was met with some complications, dealing with licensing issues with SolidWorks and trying to get over the learning curve with Unity. I have been able to create a sample scene for a user to navigate through to set up my workflow for the final project, as I need to go into a lab of the ASRC and replicate a lab setup there. Focusing on user interaction with stand-in objects, I have been trying to figure out a method for a pop-up screen to appear and show information on the interacted object. I have been slowly working on my methodology as well as adding sample models to my virtual library to plug into the final virtual environment.

Week 4:

This week consisted of quite a bit of development for the lab walkthrough game. Learning how to script player actions, raycasting, and interactions was challenging as I have run into countless issues, but nevertheless entertaining. Much more will need to be done, including expanding on character interactions, creating a more game-like approach to the project, and eventually deploying this project on some type of web application, but I am confident much will be completed given how this week has gone. In addition, we had to meet the milestone of completing our methodology and presenting our midterm presentations. For my presentation, I was able to reveal a demo of what I had done for the game. Next will be completing the user study section for the paper paired with creating surveys to assess the participants of this study.

Image of the demo where the user is able to interact with a laser diode

Week 5:

This week, I was able to get a bit of technical work done, fortunately. Being able to create interactions with the object, the next step is to perfect the pop-up informational slides that appear upon interaction. At least one object has been added for the disciplines of Environmental Science, Structural Biology, Photonics, and Neuroscience, with the remaining discipline being Nanoscience. In the process of adding the objects, I decided to change the environment the user was in the distinguish each of the disciplines from one another by assigning their rooms a specific color that is easily associated with its given discipline. In addition, I added sound effects for walking, inspecting objects, and leaving inspection mode and I am in the process of remodeling an instrument from the ASRC Instrument database to put into the environment. Overall, I have been trying to make the program feel more fun and game-like while developing everything. Moving forward, I will have to personalize the pop-ups to each object, finish modeling the nanofabrication device, and the incentive for the user to learn each of the facts.

Image of the new environment, showcasing the difference in lighting and some of the instruments in the Structural Biology space.

Week 6:

This week, I completed the educational game and the Google form to assess participants. The main hurdle to overcome was creating the pop-up window to give the user information on the instrument selected took the most time to figure out as the first step was to learn how to customize the player UI, then programming the panel to turn on when interacting with an object. Following that, the actual informational page needed to be displayed instead of a black screen, and finally the informational page needed to be specific to each item. Miraculously, I solved this toward the beginning of the week, leaving the rest of the week prioritizing web deployment and creating the survey. The web deployment took some time to understand, as it took many trials to finally load and render correctly but I now have a fully working link to the game through my GitHub page and a survey to assess participants who use the game for educational purposes.

Image of game in use with informational pop-up
Image of informational game before clicking on object to show informational pop-up

Week 7:

After changing my survey slightly, I sent the link to my mentor to be reviewed and approved. Now that all developments were completed, I was able to start with beta testing. On Tuesday, I went to the ASRC to give a presentation to high school students on a field trip, entailing my journey from high school to doing research at Hunter College. Following that, The students explored the Illumination Space where they also were the first group to test the game I created. After giving them the survey, I received great feedback on their satisfaction with the game and what could be added or reduced to make the game more fun and usable. Later in the week, as a group, the VR-REU cohort I am in went to the ASRC on Thursday. During the visit, they also tested the game, gave feedback, and completed the survey, helping me with my data collection and analysis. Following that, we went on a tour, exploring the labs of the facilities. This week has been slightly calmer than most of the previous weeks but as this program comes to a close, I know this next week will be loaded with work.

Hunter College
City University of New York
695 Park Ave
New York, NY 10065

Telephone: +1 (212) 396-6837
Email: oo700 at hunter dot cuny dot edu

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