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Enhanced Interactivity for BuckeyeVR

Primary Investigator
Chris Orban, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics - College of Arts and Sciences  
STEAM Collaborators:   
Jon Brown, Research Scientist & Lecturer, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering - College of Engineering 
Bart Snapp, Auxiliary Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics - College of Arts and Sciences
Jim Fowler, Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics - College of Arts and Sciences.
Additional Collaborators:   
Chris Porter, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Department of Physics - College of Arts and Sciences 
Ethan Andersen, Undergraduate Student, Department of Physics - College of Arts and Sciences.
The BuckeyeVR project has focused on developing free, high-quality apps and software tools to allow students to use their own smartphones to deliver an immersive VR experience that is comparable to much more expensive VR solutions. In 2017, we released two free smartphone apps on both the iOS and Android stores and we conducted the largest-ever study of the effectiveness of VR in STEM with over 1000 introductory physics students participating (Smith et al. 2017). Preliminary results from our study suggests that user interactivity is key; that is, it is insufficient for students to merely view 3D phenomena in VR. Rather, they must be involved in the construction and active manipulation of the phenomena they are learning. Our visualizations thus far have given students freedom to rotate objects and view them from all sides, but did not give them the power to manipulate the objects in ways significantly related to the topic being taught. For example, one could view the electric field vectors around an electric dipole from any angle, but one could not alter the charge magnitudes, nor alter the distance between charges. Here, we propose to revamp our existing apps by adding the ability to increase/decrease charge strength, current magnitude, spacing between charged objects or current-carrying wires, and other possibilities. Our hypothesis is that this enhanced control over the scenario in VR will result in increased student understanding of the topic being taught, particularly the behavior of the systems in limits that are under the students’ control. Student learning gains, time on task, and attitudinal/motivational responses will be recorded and analyzed using tools that we have already developed.