As a Graduate Research Assistant I was tasked with continuing the work of a former graduate student's final project to create a working prototype that can be shown to K-5 teachers for usability studies. Using my Unity expertise, I contributed to environment & level design, 3D avatar animation and rigging, and recorded character dialogue.
Students are expected to learn how to make inferences in the third grade, but few high-quality resources are available to help students master this skill. Frequently it is practiced by giving students pictures and asking them to infer something about the picture (for example, from a photo of children standing in front of bicycles at a beach, a student could infer that it’s summertime, that they are siblings, that they rode their bikes to the beach, etc.). Teachers evaluate the inferences based on whether or not they are plausible, but often students are left to make up a set of disconnected inferences. FossilVR is a novel virtual environment that grounds the skill of making inferences in an authentic context: a paleontological fossil dig.
Students travel through the virtual environment with Dr. Hannah, the lead paleontologist at the site, and dig up fossils, about which they are then asked to make observations and inferences in their field notebook. The notebook contains scaffolds to guide noticing to help students create an argument about the characteristics of the specimen. We hypothesize that this system will increase the quality of inferences made, support argumentation skills, and create a more enjoyable learning experience compared with traditional methods.
First, I added proper collisions to the environment and player to ensure smooth gameplay. Next, I imported a new 3D model of Dr. Hannah that was more representative of what a field researcher would look like on an archeological site. Using Blender and Mixamo, I rigged and animated the new Dr. Hannah to appear to have a fluid conversation with the player when guiding them through the game.
I took the existing curriculum and developed all interaction elements to allow players to progress through it, from the initial tutorial, to the introduction of the science journal, to finding and digging up fossils. Using the on-campus recording studio and a graduate student friend, I was able to record high quality dialogue for Dr. Hannah and synced it with her animations.
Lastly, I created an Augmented Reality application which allows students to see the true scale of the fossils they were digging up in FossilVR. The AR version is still under development but will likely be a major addition to the platform in the future.
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I have finished a working prototype that we can put in front of teachers for feedback. Based on this feedback, we will greatly expand the platform to feature a large suite of educational tools to effectively teach students how to make inferences, in addition to providing an easy to use and deploy tool for teachers. In spring, FossilVR will be converted to a WebXR application so so that students & teachers can access it by navigating to a website from whatever technology they have deployed in their classroom.
Led development for environment design, interaction design, and gameplay. All in Unity.
Contributed to academic research in the field of educational technology.
Scripted, recorded, and mixed dialogue for educational content.
Developed an Augmented Reality extension of the platform to showcase the true scale of dinosaur bones.