Students playing with Augmented reality sanbox

Lake Ridge students enjoy augmented reality sandbox from ETSU


Telling kids to move mountains used to be a catchy cliché. But at Lake Ridge Elementary last month, the words were detailed instructions to students as they learned from the ETSU Geoscience augmented reality sandbox.

The ETSU Geoscience Department and Dr. William Tollefson brought the mobile map and allowed students to push around sand to create and destroy mountains. The unit, which was designed by ETSU graduate students in the department by using a computer, Xbox camera and other tools, allows students to visualize and manipulate landforms and bodies of water in a computer-generated format.

“This is one of the tools that we use in our classes in order for students to get a hands-on look at different landforms,” Dr. Tollefson said. “Students have the ability to move and create large land masses and manipulate water in order to see the different effects it has on the environment.”

Many of the students were all smiles after they were given the instructions to dig-in and move the sand around. The camera above the sand is able to gauge the height of the sand and will make either a landform or water mass, based on the sand’s elevation. Students can even ball up their fist over a landform and cause it to rain. As the augmented reality rain falls, students can actually see how the topography of the land effects water.

“I thought this activity fit well with our standards,” one Lake Ridge second grade teacher said. “The kids loved it and easily discussed what they saw with great energy. They were even able to connect the new things they learned to previous lessons.”

Many of the teachers said that they loved to see their students’ faces light up when they saw what the map could do.

“My students loved the digital map presentation,” another second grade teacher said. “I could tell they were more engaged than sitting in the classroom. They were able to get their hands dirty and they loved the interactive activity.”

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