Robson Martins De Araujo Junior, Dr. Alec Bodzin, Dr. Thomas Hammond, Dr. David Anastasio, Dr. Farah Vallera, Scott Rutzmoser, Sayed Abdul Bashir Sadat, Henry Levy, and Brian Yeung, all of Lehigh University, won the 2019 Best Poster Award at the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN) Conference in London, UK. This work was developed through the Lehigh Mountaintop project grant.
"Lehigh River Watershed VR: The Lehigh Gap Immersive Virtual Field Trip"
The Lehigh team designed and developed an immersive virtual field trip (iVFT) prototype to explore features about the Lehigh Gap in Pennsylvania, USA to promote learner engagement about our watershed. Its primary audiences are: (a) urban high-school students and college undergraduates who are often impeded to join actual field trips due to health issues, athletics schedule, and/or disabilities; (b) and visitors of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center for pre-field trip visits.
This area became a barren “moon-scape” as a result of zinc smelting emissions from 1890-1970. The Lehigh Gap has been revitalized today through a mixture of warm season grasses that have trapped the heavy metals in the soil. The team's iVFT is designed to enable residents of the Lehigh River watershed to understand the environmental changes that occurred during the past two centuries.
In addition, iVFT learning experiences enables users to learn about the construction and operations of historical transportation systems in the area (railroads and canals along the Lehigh River). The initial prototype was tested by a secondary student, undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty at Lehigh University. Prototype feedback included that the iVFT experience promoted a feeling of immersion, an authentic experience, high degree of realism, ease of use for navigating within the immersive virtual environment, a comfortable feeling, and little to no dizziness. Users also noted a feeling of high engagement and flow.