Virtual Reality Simulations in Physics Education

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14 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 5 μήνες)

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1.

Introduction

2.

VR Applicat
ions in
Education

3.

VR Simulation Programs
in Physics Education

4.

An Assessment of the
Pedagogical
Effec
tiveness

5.

Conclusion

6.

Acknowledgement

7.

References

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Virtual Reality Simulations in Physics Educati
on

Jong
-
Heon Kim,
Kongju National University

Sang
-
Tae Park,
Kongju National University

Heebok Lee
,
Kongju National University

Keun
-
Cheol Yuk,
Kongju National University

Heeman Lee
,
Seowon University

Abstract

A virtual reality physics simulation (VRPS) is an educational tool
using a virtual reality interface that brings together a 3D model of
real apparatus and a virtual visualization of physical situations in an
inter
active manner. VRPS enhances students' understanding by
providing a degree of reality unattainable in a traditional two
-
dimensional interface, creating a sensory
-
rich interactive learning
environment. In this paper, we present a computer
-
based virtual
real
ity simulation that helps students to learn physics concepts
such as wave propagation, ray optics, relative velocity, electric
machines, etc. at the level of high school or college physics.

1. Introduction

Virtual reality (VR) is defined as a highly intera
ctive, computer
-
based multimedia environment in which the user becomes the
participant in a computer
-
generated world. A key feature of VR is
real
-
time interactivity where the computer is able to detect user
inputs and instantaneously modify the virtual wor
ld in accordance
with user interactions. VR environments often consist of
technological hardware including computers, head
-
mounted
displays (HMD), eye phones, and motion
-
sensing data gloves.
Virtual reality technology may offer strong benefits in science
e
ducation not only by facilitating constructivist learning activities but
also by supporting different types of learners such as those who
are visually oriented.

Distance learning has been popularized in recent years because of
the fast development of compu
ter systems and the spreading
Internet connectivity. One of the major restrictions for distance
learning in science and engineering education is the difficulty of
laboratory activities. One way to overcome these difficulties is to
use simulation programs r
unning on a Web browser instead of
requiring hands
-
on experiments. However, most simulation
programs used to demonstrate physical experiments are displayed
in 2D and, thus, lack realism.

A virtual reality simulation program is one solution for realistic
ha
nds
-
on experimentation. Furthermore, it has an additional
benefit. Physical phenomena that are neither easy to perceive nor
to measure in usual experiments can be presented in a virtual
world and can be viewed in many different perspectives in a VR
laborat
ory. In addition, dangerous, high cost, and complicated
experiments can be realized in a VR system for distance learners.

In this paper, we will present the recent development of a
computer
-
based virtual reality simulation which permits students to
learn p
hysics concepts such as wave propagation, ray optics,
relative velocity, and electric machines, etc. at the level of high
school or college physics.


About the
authors...






2. VR Applications in Education

Within the higher education community, multimedia is being
used more and more and with increasing success.

Multimedia
-
based systems provide the student with a very rich source of
educational material in a form that makes learning exciting. VR
has extremely wide applications across a whole range of
disciplines, and the enabling technology has reached a
sufficie
nt level of maturity for it to be seriously applied to
education, training, and research in higher education.
However, until fairly recently VR systems have not had the
performance to be seriously considered for anything other than
research tools. Furtherm
ore, the costs associated with a VR
system have been prohibitive for educational establishments.
(This is still true for fully immersive VR systems). The good
news is that recent technological developments in computer
hardware and software now make it feas
ible to look at VR as
an important teaching aid (e.g., Byrne, C. 1993).

It is certain that the flexibility provided by a VR system will be a
major attraction to the educational community. Even though
the cost of entry is quite high compared to conventiona
l
multimedia systems, this is quickly offset when one considers
the different applications it can support. It is not too difficult to
imagine a time when school laboratories are replaced or
augmented by a number of VR systems where experiments
can be perfo
rmed. The major difference is that the VR
-
based
laboratory will be able to support chemistry, physics and
engineering sessions instead of covering a single discipline.

The VR world can also be used to circumvent the physical,
safety, and cost constraints
that limit schools in the types of
environments they can provide for learning
-
by
-
doing. For
example, it would be very effective to allow students studying
nuclear engineering to further their understanding of the
nuclear reactor by moving into the reactor
with HMD and 3D
gloves. This type of activity can be performed in a virtual world.
As this example hints, VR learning environments can also
support the notion of situated learning where students learn in
the actual context where that learning is to be appl
ied.






3. VR Simulation Programs in Physics Education

We have used the 3D Webmaster software for authoring VRPS
programs. 3D
Webmaster is a powerful windows application for
creating interactive 3D Web pages. 3D Webmaster is the
browser platform that lets you display, move around, and
interact with virtual worlds. It lets you adjust viewpoints, display
options and device configur
ations, and add the final touches to
your world. The worlds you create can be displayed on the fully
interactive environments in 2D HTML pages. You can add
URLs to objects so that you can link directly from your virtual
world to any other 2D or 3D page on
the WWW. In order to
create realistic worlds, you can use the script language

(Supercape Control Language, SCL) to control the behavior of
objects in the world, perform complex actions, and modify your
worlds based on the user's actions.

The VRPS sample p
rograms developed in this study are
described below.






Figure 1.

AC
electric
generator
(top) and DC
electr
ic
generator
(bottom).

An
interactive demo
(~45 KB) of the
AC generator.

Require
Internet
Explorer 5 or
above, and
Viscape plugin.

A screenshot
AVI movie (3.3
MB) showing
how the
VRPS
program of the
AC electric
generator.

An
interactive demo
(~44 KB) of the
D
C generator.

Require Internet
Explorer 5 or
above, and
Viscape plugin.

Viscape can be
downloaded from
Superscape.com
.




Figure 1 shows the VRPS programs of
AC/DC electric generators where a student
can investigate the generators by dragging
the control icons in th
e plug
-
in program. Also,

the student can change the viewpoint to see
details of the generators and watch the output
voltage in a voltmeter while switching the
direction of the magnetic field, changing the
intensity of the magnetic field, and adjusting
the
frequency of revolutions, etc. These kinds
of 3D VRPS programs are powerful tools for
learning
-
by
-
doing experiments in science
education for distance learners.






Figure 2.

Water
waves.

An interactive
demo (~210 KB) of
spherical wave.

Require Viscape plugin.

An interactive
demo (~30 KB) of plane
wave.

Require Internet Explorer 5
or above, and Viscape
plugin.

Viscape can be
downloaded from
Superscape.com
.




The VRPS programs for the propagation of water waves are shown
in Figure 2. The spherical wave (top
) and a plane wave (bottom)
are modeled in the VRPS programs with changeable wavelengths
and viewpoints.






Figure 3.

Simple
harmonic oscillator.

An interactive
demo
(~30 KB) of simple
harmonic oscillator.

Require Internet Explorer 5

or above, and Viscape
plugin.

Viscape can be
downloaded from
Superscape.com
.






Figure 4.

Action
and reaction.

An interactive
demo (~30 KB) of action
and reaction.

Require Internet Explorer 5
or above, and Viscape
plugin.

Viscape can be
downloaded from
Superscap
e.com
.




Figure 3 shows the simple harmonic oscillator (SHO) with a white
ball in a circular motion.
The motion of a ball is synchronized with
the SHO. By changing the viewpoint from the top view, the student
can understand the description of the SHO as a projection of a ball
in a circular motion. Various oscillation frequencies can be
observed by selecti
ng different mass and spring constants.

The virtual experiment for action and reaction is shown in Figure 4.
In this experiment, a person is seen walking on a thick board
located on a frictionless floor. The student can select the
character's walking speed

and watch the motion of the man and the
board.

We have developed many other VRPS programs such as ray
optics, relative velocity, electric machines, etc. on the level of high
school or college physics







4. An Assessment of the Pedagogical Effectiveness

We selected three groups in a junior high school to assess the
pedagogical effectiveness for one of our VRPS programs. The
subjec
t of the assessment was the AC/DC electric generator
programs. The students were supposed to learn about the structure
of the AC/DC generators and the characteristics of their output
voltages. Each group consisted of two classes of around 35. After
present
ing these, we tested the students' knowledge improvement
and surveyed the students' attitudes about the VRPS programs.

The first group didn't use the VRPS programs at all; instead, they
were taught by traditional methods such as OHP and multimedia
coursew
are. In the second group, the VRPS program was used in
the class only by a teacher as a supplement to lecture. The third
group used the VRPS program in the PC room where the students
were actively engaged by themselves without any lecture. They had
only th
e study guide papers and were expected to learn by
themselves. We called the first assessment group "the teacher
-
centered group," the second assessment group "the teacher
-
centered VR group,+ and the third assessment group "the learner
-
centered VR group."

Figure 5 shows the academic achievement of each group before
they were taught the VRPS program. The teacher
-
centered group
was slightly superior in academic achievement to other groups.






Figure 5.

The
academic
achievement of
each group before
the assessment




Academic achievement was measured by a written examination
after two hours of course work for each group, as shown in Figure
6. Since the subject of the courseware is highly dependent on
visualization in

3D space, it is not surprising that a dramatic
improvement of academic achievement was found in the learner
-
centered VR group. The academic achievement of the teacher
-
centered VR group was also better than the teacher
-
centered
group.






Figure 6.

The
academic

achievement of
each group after the
course work




The survey results of students' responses about the course work
are shown in Figure 7. We asked students the following questions.
(a) Do you think the teac
hing materials were useful in helping you
to understand the subject? (b) Do you think the class hours were
sufficient? (c) Do you understand the subject? (d) Did you like the
teaching methods? The survey results indicate that the students in
the learner
-
ce
ntered VR group were more satisfied with their
instruction; they felt that they understood the subject better; and
they found the teaching methods more engaging. From the
assessment we can infer the VRPS are very useful as teaching
materials especially in
case of highly interactive visualization of
abstract concepts such as electromagnetic phenomena.







Figure 7.

The
survey results of
students' responses
about the course
work: (a) Do you
think teaching
materials were
useful in helping
you to understand
the subject? (b) Do
you think the class
hours were
sufficient? (c) Do
you

understand the
subject? (d) Do you
like teaching
methods? The light
gray bar graph is for
the teacher
-
centered group (left
bar); the mesh bar
graph is for the
teacher
-
centered
VR group (center
bar); and the dark
gray bar graph is for
the learner
-
centered



VR group (right
bar).





5. Conclusion

There is a need to develop new VRPS programs for distance
education as well as for the regular classroom. The VRPS program
is useful for realistic hands
-
on experimen
tation, visualization of
invisible physical quantities, and replacement of dangerous, high
cost, and complicated experiments. This paper presents VRPS
programs which enhance students' understanding by providing a
degree of reality within rich interactive l
earning environments. We
have developed VRPS programs for key physics concepts such as
wave propagation, ray optics, relative velocity, and electric
machines, etc. at the level of high school or college physics. We

have assessed the pedagogical effectivene
ss for one of our VRPS
programs. Student academic achievement shows a higher level of
learning in the learner
-
centered VR group. The survey results also
indicate that the students in the learner
-
centered VR group were
more satisfied, felt that they underst
ood better, and were more
interested in the VRPS than in other teaching materials.





6. Acknowledgement

This work was support
ed by Korea Research Foundation Grant
(KRF
-
99
-
005
-
D00076).






7. References

Byrne, C. (1993).
Virtual Reality and Education
. U
niversity of
Washington, Human Interface Technology Laboratory of the
Washington Technology Center, Seattle, WA. Technical Publication
R
-
93
-
6.

C. Youngblut. (1998).

Educational Use of Virtual Reality
Technology
. Institute for Defense Analyses. IDA Documen
t D
-
2128.
Log:H98
-
000105.

Wayne, T. (1997).
Student Responses to Their Immersion in a
Virtual Environment
. University of Washington, Human Interface
Technology Laboratory of the Washington Technology Center,
Seattle, WA. Technical Publication R
-
97
-
11.

Wi
nn, W. (1993).
A Conceptual Basis for Educational Applications
of Virtual Reality
. University of Washington, Human Interface
Technology Laboratory of the Washington Technology Center,
Seattle, WA. Technical Publication R
-
93
-
9.


Examples of VRPS
programs can be accessed to
http://
heebok.kongju.ac.kr/VRPS