It’s not every day a person has the opportunity to see Fremont Public Schools’ superintendent playing in a sand box, but that’s exactly what Mark Shepard, and several other administrators, were doing prior to Monday’s Board of Education meeting.
Shepard and others, however, didn’t have their feet in the sand as they would with a beach-going experience, but rather with their hands as they created structures in the district’s new Augmented Reality Sandbox registered through the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.
With the implementation of the Reality Sandbox, Shepard said he believes this is the first of its kind within the Nebraska Public School System.
The overall goal of the Reality Sandbox is to present students with a three-dimensional visualization tool enabling them to more efficiently learn – and for teaches to more effectively teach – principles relating to earth science, information off of a UC Davis webpage says.
The hands-on exhibit combines several features, including: a real sandbox, virtual topography and water created using a closed loop of a three-dimensional camera, powerful simulation and visualization software and a data projector.
The augmented reality created allows users to create numerous topography models by shaping real sand, which is the augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines and simulated water, information off of UC Davis’ webpage says.
The system teaches users geographic, geologic and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topography map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees, and provides additional teaching opportunities as well.
The actual box the sand is placed in was created by FHS students participating in the school’s Welding Academy, and a bracket holding specific technology in place was created by Fremont Middle School students using one of the industrial technology department’s 3D printers.
In addition, Shepard said the district’s Technology Department worked closely with Wahoo’s JEO Consulting Group, Inc., in regard to programming for the Augmented Reality Sandbox.
Kate Heineman, executive director of teaching and learning, said that the new technology opens new pathways for students to learn and become more actively engaged in the realm of science.
“You can read to students about social studies or science in a book – tell them, but they can’t actually experience it,” she said. “Fremont’s kind of flat, so they don’t always get to see or feel that stuff. So I know this would make learning a whole lot of fun for them.”