Research Projects: VizClass

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Project Name: VizClass - Expanding Engineering Thinking: Interactive Visualization Of Numerical Models
Team Members: Tara C. Hutchinson, Falko Kuester, Dirk Groeneveld, Mike Elkin, Mark E. Phair and Kai-Uwe Doerr
Assessment Team: Mark Warschauer and Doug Grimes (Department of Education)
Project Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)



Though the field of engineering has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, the study of engineering has changed relatively little. Students continue to passively listen to lectures in chalkboard-based environments that afford them little opportunity for visualization, hands-on manipulation, interaction, or creative design. Indeed, almost all of these skills- which are vital for engineering- are learned through on-the-job practice, rather than at universities. A continuation of this trend threatens to weaken the relevancy of engineering and computer science study at the university. This project involves the development of a new interactive learning environment—incorporating both a specially designed lecture room and laboratory- called VizClass. VizClass integrates 2- and 3-dimensional spatial learning by coupling a series of interactive projection display boards (2D white boards) and a semi-immersive (3D stereo equipped) wall display controlled by a dedicated visualization server. Each of these spaces (devices) will be connected to a numerical solver. Active white board screens providing either an input or output workspace will be linked to each other and to the numerical solver via a high-speed (large storage capacity) server. The solver will receive feedback from the input or 'working' screen in the form chosen by the user. If the input-mode is of type equation, the solver will manipulate the equations and output the solution as either a 2- or 3-dimensional visual object to the selected output device in either mono- or stereoscopic form. Visual output can be for example, a distorted or contoured mesh with stresses, strains or flow distribution, or figures annotating important engineering parameters. Test bed verification of VizClass will be targeted towards finite element methods applicable to civil and structural engineering problem solving at the graduate education level. This research project has just begun (Fall 2002) and receives matching resources provided by the Henry Samueli School of Engineering (HSSoE), Calit2 and RGS. Faculty and student researchers from the Departments of Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering and Education are collaborating on this project.



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