Assistant Professor Mueller and her team will measure the learning effectiveness of a new type of learning environment, in which learners acquire skills in physical prototyping (laser cutting, 3D printing) and electronics (breadboarding, circuits). Their work is motivated by recent advances in virtual-physical game play, in which players use physical props as part of the game (e.g., a fishing rod made from cardboard + sensors is cast by the player to acquire virtual fish). While today these physical props are used to increase immersion in the game, they are not used to teach players skills in fabrication and electronics. The key idea behind the work is to use the process of building the physical prop as a learning experience in which players acquire technical skills. The team imagines, for instance, that in an AR game, a player would collect all the parts necessary to build a spotlight, the team would then hope to show the following:
- Fabrication Skills: Upon unlocking the spotlight in the virtual game play, the game generates a tutorial for how to create a matching physical spotlight (e.g., using a laser cutter). Once the player fabricated the physical spotlight and holds it in his/her hand, the game engine registers the spotlight (e.g., by tracking a fiducial marker engraved on the design) and it becomes available in the virtual game. This now enables the player to uncover items in the AR game that were ‘hidden in the dark’ when the player swipes the physical spotlight across a space in front of him/her.
- Electronics Skills: After using the spotlight for a while, the game notifies the player that the spotlight is always on and the player is running low on virtual battery power. The game next instructs the player to add an on/off button and provides a tutorial for how to accomplish this using the Arduino electronics toolkit. After the player finished wiring, the game registers the button as part of the virtual game play and the player can now turn the spotlight on/off in the virtually world, saving battery power.