Below are samples of the suite of technology and hardware innovations I am developing with multiple vendors.
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VR THEME PARK BRINGS PHYSICS EDUCATION TO LIFE
For students learning about physics, understanding the relationship between motion and forces can be hard to visualize…and sometimes not so interesting to learn! This is about to change, because a shared passion for theme parks between Swedish-based physics professor Ann-Marie Pendrill and Australian PhD candidate and amusement academic Malcolm Burt has led to the development of a “Virtual Theme Park”, where students take a spin on theme park rides in VR headsets, with physics forces overlaid to show them the forces at work. The project is an example of edumusement (in that it blends education and amusement) and it is designed to test the idea that VR experiences might lead to better physics learning outcomes than traditional textbook descriptions.
Students begin their adventure with a short primer about the kinds of forces to be expected on the rides, then they make predictions as to what they will feel when they experience these forces. Students then put their VR headsets on and the app gives them the choice to climb aboard a steel or wooden coaster, a drop ride or a swinging ride. The students ride the highly realistic computer generations and have a chance to adjust their predictions, before seeing the same rides with force overlays, which then confirm or correct their predictions. The personal experiences of our body are rarely used in education – the "body" in Newton's second law is more often a box in the classroom or a nondescript point particle. In amusement rides the forces relating to acceleration are experienced throughout the body. How can we build on that experience to develop student understanding? Can the VR visuals effectively evoke earlier experiences of the changing forces in roller coasters, swings and drops?
The Virtual Theme Park (VTP) is part of a wider package of media projects being created by the duo for the purpose of physics education. This includes a version of the VTP for Google Cardboard, which is an app and package of educational materials with branded headsets sent to schools, and a more advanced version of the project which offers expanded ride choices, higher-quality headsets and utilises a VR motion platform simulator. Other projects include VR experiences which teach angular momentum via physical gyroscopes which students strap themselves into, and a web-based TV series and accompanying vodcast where the passionate duo live in a theme park and deliver physics education whilst taking a spin on some of the most intense theme park rides in the world.
This project brings together the experience and knowledge of two academics who are both passionate about thrill rides, and reality – real, virtual and augmented. Please contact Malcolm Burt on email@example.com or Ann-Marie Pendrill on Ann-Marie.Pendrill@fysik.lu.se for interviews about the project, and further information about how to access the experiences.