Mapping Fields in Augmented Reality with Personal Mobile Devices: Enhancing Visualization Skills for Education and Industry


PIs: Colleen Megowan-Romanowicz, Mina Johnson, Rebecca Vieyra, Chrystian Vieyra
American Modeling Teachers Association
Award Details

Magnetic field visualizations are essential to many branches of the technology workforce. While fields are a core concept in K-14 STEM education, the field model of magnetic interactions is often poorly conveyed and regularly misunderstood by K-14 teachers and students alike. This project will significantly advance the augmented reality (AR) capabilities of personal mobile devices to help learners conceptualize magnetic fields. The proposed technology will enable users to use smartphones or tablets to visualize in real time and 3-D, the shape, magnitude and direction of magnetic fields around everyday objects. Few affordable technological solutions exist to address students’ difficulties with fields or to support instructional improvements with 3-D visualization. This innovative technology development and educational research aims to address this issue by providing a broadly accessible, easy to-use, low cost magnetic field visualization tool that will enable both guided and unguided exploration, and support the learner’s ability to make sense of magnetic field interactions in their environment. Ultimately, this project will produce low-cost visualization tools that will be available to smartphone users for use anytime, anywhere to visualize the magnetic fields in their environment or workplace.

Researchers and educational software developers will design and create a new software educational tool as well as developer resources for data-based visualization. The software will utilize the new capabilities of recently-introduced AR frameworks to determine physical location of the mobile device based upon both the inertial sensor unit including accelerometer and gyroscope, and the camera. It then overlays the screen with field information based upon the magnetometer. Magnetic field data will be collected as the user “sweeps” through space surrounding a field source by simply moving the mobile device around the physical area. The vast majority of pre-existing AR software resources utilize tools to superimpose images onto a primarily 2-D world, require the use of an image target, and focus on entertainment as the main goal, not education. The development of the proposed application for teaching and learning will work toward addressing technological challenges for developers in motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation, as well as challenges associated with field data acquisition and 3-D visualization. The researchers will study how this new tool will support the teaching and learning of fields, a notoriously difficult topic for introductory learners given its reliance upon theoretical understanding and 3-D visualizations. User testing and observations in both high school and college physics classrooms will be carried out during the development process. A Magnetic Field Concept Inventory will be developed and used to measure student gains in conceptual coherence.

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