No Drill Press Required: Simulation and Gamification of Precision Machining Labs using Augmented and Virtual Reality.

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Brief Abstract


Using gamified AR/VR simulations for the iOS, Android, and Oculus platforms, students can practice using precision machining equipment virtually, allowing new students to understand the trade and existing students to practice skills outside of a lab environment. 


Cynthia Schanke, M.S.I.T. is the Assistant Director of Online Learning at Elizabethtown College in central Pennsylvania. She has over 20 years of experience in instructional design, web design, graphic design, and web-based training. Cynthia specializes in online course development and faculty training. She is also an adjunct professor, teaching courses in web design at both Elizabethtown College and Harrisburg Area Community College.

Extended Abstract

The value of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) in STEAM education may be beneficial by providing more engaging learning environments. With a collaboration between Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) and local K-12 partner schools, we are exploring the feasibility and value of VR/AR to both introduce students to careers in the skilled trades and reinforce learning outcomes outside of the laboratory setting. 

HACC’s Workforce Development and partner Career and Technical schools, speak to a lack of awareness of many STEAM fields and expectations. Our project focuses on creating greater awareness and education of STEAM programs with Virtual Reality 3D Tours of HACC’s Workforce Development Program, and their partner K-12 school’s labs, and interactive AR/VR learning objects. We are initially focusing on skilled trades (e.g., Precision Machining), where it is impractical to introduce K-12 students to the subject without significant investments of time, money, and resources at the partner schools. Through the use of 3D tours and AR/VR simulations, we can reach K-12 students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to visit and have hands-on experience in a precision machining lab. AR/VR simulations can provide students with a better understanding of the skilled trade without worry about the high cost of safety hazards involved in an actual machine shop.

Using a 360-degree video camera mounted to a remote-controlled dolly, we took videos and snapshots of the campus labs and machine shops. Then, using 3D modeling software, a basic 3D model of a drill press, drill bit, and various materials were created. The combination of 360 video and 3D models were then incorporated into various AR/VR simulations using the Unity development platform. We are focusing on augmented reality for client devices using both the ARCore and Android tablets and ARKit for iPad/iPhone devices. For VR development, we are targeting the Oculus Go and Oculus Rift 3D headsets.  

We are currently developing the drill press into both a gamified VR and AR simulation for use in the K-12 environments. With the drill press simulators, students can learn the foundations of using a drill press through such activities, such as calculating the required spindle speed based on given material hardness. Without AR/VR simulations, students would be limited in their exposure to such skills, potentially reducing their overall exposure to careers in the skilled trades. In addition to introducing new students to these technologies, AR/VR can also reinforce learning outcomes and practice skills in blended and fully online courses.

In addition to precision machining, we also intend to build a framework of procedures and policies for future collegewide virtual reality and augmented reality content. Our goal is to be innovative and creative to enhance our curriculum and related program awareness. The VR/AR learning outcomes from the project will be shared with our internal and external communities to contribute to innovative content at HACC.