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Posted 7/3/2017

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By Mike Petersen
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Public Affairs

The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory has a new tool for engaging students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: an Augmented Reality Sandbox.

Using an Xbox Kinect camera, projector and laptop, the sandbox creates 3-D visualization in real-time projecting an elevation color map, topographic contour lines and simulated water as the elevation of the sand changes. (Video - see Related Content on this page) 

Dr. Jackie Pettway, a research hydraulic engineer at CHL, spearheaded the construction of the sandbox to support outreach to students about the value careers and education in STEM. Pettway is a Vicksburg, Mississippi native whose early interest in math and science found a place to grow during a student internship at ERDC. Her internship led to a career, as well as advanced degrees through the ERDC Graduate Institute.

“I always had an interest in math, but I didn’t know about the careers or opportunities in engineering like we have at ERDC until I worked here,” Pettway said. “I want more students to know about those opportunities.”

By engaging students hands-on in STEM, Pettway and other ERDC researchers can help students apply concepts from the classroom to the real-world research and development happening at ERDC. 

The ERDC model was refined and constructed by a team from the ERDC R&D Shops, including Mickey Blackmon, Julie Cohen, Christopher Ables, Ricky Cockrell, Zack Smith, Trey Acuff, Mark Daniels, Hayden Skipper, Chase Towne and Jason Ables. 

The original design of the Augmented Reality Sandbox was developed by the University of California at Davis W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences with support from the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL 1114663.

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