The Whole World In Your Hands: Using an Interactive Virtual Reality Sandbox for Geospatial Education and Outreach

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Tania Clucas, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, United States, Greg S Wirth, Geographic Information Network of Alaska - UAF, Fairbanks, AK, United States and Dayne Broderson, GINA, Fairbanks, AK, United States
Traditional geospatial education tools such as maps and computer screens don't convey the rich topography present on Earth. Translating lines on a contour lines on a topo map to relief in a landscape can be a challenging concept to convey.

A partnership between Alaska EPSCoR and the Geographic Information Network of Alaska has successfully constructed an Interactive Virtual Reality Sandbox, an education tool that in real-time projects and updates topographic contours on the surface of a sandbox. The sandbox has been successfully deployed at public science events as well as professional geospatial and geodesy conferences. Landscape change, precipitation, and evaporation can all be modeled, much to the delight of our enthusiasts, who range in age from 3 to 90. Visually, as well as haptically, demonstrating the effects of events (such as dragging a hand through the sand) on a landscape, as well as the intuitive realization of meaning of topographic contour lines, has proven to be engaging.