Shaping Watersheds Exhibit: An Interactive, Augmented Reality Sandbox for Advancing Earth Science Education

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 4:00 PM
Sarah E Reed1, Oliver Kreylos2,3, Sherry Hsi1, Louise H Kellogg2,3, Geoffrey Schladow4,5, M. Burak Yikilmaz2,3, Heather Segale5, Julie Silverman6, Steve Yalowitz7 and Elissa Sato8, (1)University of California Berkeley, Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley, CA, United States, (2)University of California Davis, KeckCAVES, Davis, CA, United States, (3)UC Davis, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Davis, CA, United States, (4)University of California Davis, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Davis, CA, United States, (5)University of California Davis, Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Davis, CA, United States, (6)ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, Burlington, VT, United States, (7)Audience Viewpoints Consulting, Herndon, VA, United States, (8)University of California Berkeley, Studies in Engineering, Science and Mathematics Education, Berkeley, CA, United States
One of the challenges involved in learning earth science is the visualization of processes which occur over large spatial and temporal scales. Shaping Watersheds is an interactive 3D exhibit developed with support from the National Science Foundation by a team of scientists, science educators, exhibit designers, and evaluation professionals, in an effort to improve public understanding and stewardship of freshwater ecosystems. The hands-on augmented reality sandbox allows users to create topographic models by shaping real “kinetic” sand. The exhibit is augmented in real time by the projection of a color elevation map and contour lines which exactly match the sand topography, using a closed loop of a Microsoft Kinect 3D camera, simulation and visualization software, and a data projector. When an object (such as a hand) is sensed at a particular height above the sand surface, virtual rain appears as a blue visualization on the surface and a flow simulation (based on a depth-integrated version of the Navier-Stokes equations) moves the water across the landscape. The blueprints and software to build the sandbox are freely available online (http://3dh2o.org/71/) under the GNU General Public License, together with a facilitator’s guide and a public forum (with how-to documents and FAQs). Using these resources, many institutions (20 and counting) have built their own exhibits to teach a wide variety of topics (ranging from watershed stewardship, hydrology, geology, topographic map reading, and planetary science) in a variety of venues (such as traveling science exhibits, K-12 schools, university earth science departments, and museums). Additional exhibit extensions and learning modules are planned such as tsunami modeling and prediction. Moreover, a study is underway at the Lawrence Hall of Science to assess how various aspects of the sandbox (such as visualization color scheme and level of interactivity) affect understanding of earth science concepts.