2019 FYEE Conference

Enhancing experience and learning of first-year surveying engineering students with immersive virtual reality

Presented at M1B: WIP - Learning Experiences 2

Enhancing experience and learning of first-year surveying engineering student with immersive virtual reality

Dimitrios Bolkas (Penn State Wilkes-Barre) and Jeffery Chiampi (Penn State Wilkes-Barre)

This paper, a work in progress, focuses on the application of virtual reality on first-year Surveying Engineering laboratories. Students enrolled in the Surveying Engineering major at Penn State Wilkes-Barre take SUR 111 in the fall and SUR 162 in the spring. These courses have a primary objective to introduce students to surveying equipment, practices, and techniques for 3D data collection. Both courses contain an outdoor laboratory component with extensive use of surveying equipment. These activities are frequently affected by inclement weather (rain and snow), which leads to cancelled classes. This disrupts the educational process and limits the time students spend with the instruments. In addition, student training is constrained to the area surrounding the campus due to safety and transportation issues. This reduces students’ comprehension on how to apply techniques and use surveying instruments in real-world environments.
To address these unique challenges, we are developing realistic surveying engineering laboratories in immersive virtual reality. Virtual reality can place students in imaginary or realistic environments. These environments create the feeling of being there while introducing students to new and diverse locations. Students can therefore interact with the same surveying equipment they use in the real-world. These environments can create scenarios typical students may not have have an opportunity to interact with.
This paper focuses on data collection and modeling, using modern instrumentation and technologies such as 3D laser scanners and unmanned aerial systems, to create realistic environments that will be digital recreations of real ones. In addition, this paper discusses the creation of the surveying laboratories in virtual reality, including the challenges encountered in replicating surveying instruments. These virtual instruments need to be modeled to closely represent the appearance and functionality of their real-world counterparts. Furthermore, these virtual instruments must allow a student to intuitively interact with them given the primitive virtual reality user interface input options currently available.
Supplementing and enhancing real laboratories with virtual ones can aid students with increasing their learning engagement and enhancing their surveying and engineering skills. A long-term goal of this study is to identify the role of virtual reality in surveying education and how it should be implemented to increase instructional efficiency. 3D data acquisition and modeling is an integral part of surveying education, therefore, exposure of students to virtual reality environments, created using modern surveying equipment and technologies (such as terrestrial laser scanning and unmanned aerial systems) can broaden the student’s awareness of the career capabilities of the surveying profession.

  1. Dr. Dimitrios Bolkas Penn State University, Wilkes-Barre Campus [biography]
  2. Mr. Jeffrey Daniel Chiampi II The Pennsylvania State University [biography]
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