North-Central Section - 50th Annual Meeting - 2016

Paper No. 26-1
Presentation Time: 8:10 AM


VOICE, Peter J., Michigan Geological Survey, Western Michigan University, 1903 W. Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5241, HOWE III, Thomas, Department of Geosciences, Western Michigan University, 1903 W. Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5241 and PETCOVIC, Heather L., Department of Geosciences and The Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5241,

The Department of Geosciences at Western Michigan University has two major outreach units: the Lloyd Schmaltz Museum and the CoreKids program. Between these two programs, more than 20,000 K-12 and college students, teachers and members of the general public interact with our educational content per year. The Lloyd Schmaltz Museum is a traditional earth-science oriented museum with exhibits on mineral and rock specimens, geological tools and techniques, fossils (including a display on the Van Buren Mastodon), and modern seashells. In an effort to revitalize the Museum, students and staff have worked to develop new exhibits over the past five years including the development of an Augmented Reality Sandbox (AR-Sandbox).

The AR-Sandbox was developed based on the plans and software provided by the University of California Davis, Department of Geology (Reed et al. 2014) and was placed on display in the Lloyd Schmaltz Museum in early 2015. The AR-Sandbox consists of a sandbox with a Kinect 3D camera and a digital data projector suspended above. The camera is linked to a software package on the computer which projects a topographic map onto the sand. The topographic map is refreshed in real-time allowing the students to build topographic features and observe the corresponding contours projected onto the sand. A second transportable AR-Sandbox was built for use in external outreach events as well as to be brought into the classroom on campus.

The introduction of the AR-Sandbox exhibit has increased the frequency and duration of student visits to the Museum, including incoming students on formal campus tours. The AR-Sandbox has been incorporated into coursework on topographic maps and has aided in student understanding of how contours maps are constructed and interpreted. Having a visually appealing and interactive hands-on model of topography is very helpful in the understanding of 3D concepts for a variety of reasons. Courses from several different areas of study such as geography, earth science education, geomorphology, climate science and art have incorporated visits to the AR-sandbox exhibit into portions of their curriculum. The use of the sandbox by WMU and the CoreKids program has increased the visibility of the Department of Geosciences at WMU both on and off campus.