Bringing 4D Numerical Tools in to the Classroom

Project Description

The undergraduate experience in engineering aims to produce competent professional engineers through encouraging them to engage with realistic problems. Although students clamour for more ‘realism’ in their courses, looking at scenarios in more than one dimension requires significant resources which are often unfeasible. This project will provide a means for students to interact with realistic scenarios by introducing a new facility, and learning paradigm, into several undergraduate coursework subjects in civil engineering. We propose to construct an Augmented Reality Sandbox (ARS) which will be used as both the user interface and visualisation methods for existing numerical codes.

Students will create structures by hand using the sand in a physical sandbox, and the ARS will then use motion capture technology to identify the surface of the sand. This surface will be used to run a simulation, which will be handled in real-time with minimal user input. The simulation output will then be projected directly onto the sand. In this way, students will be able to rapidly iterate their design decisions, with constant visualisation of sophisticated numerical tools, without any prior programming knowledge. This will enable students to directly interact with problems that are both intellectually stimulating and physically realistic.

The Team

Dr Guien Miao
Benjy Marks
David Airey
Tom Hartley
Associate Professor
Abbas El-Zein
Associate Professor
Thomas Hubble
Samantha Clarke

2017 Project Updates


Our first month has been quite eventful! We've hired Tom Hartley (pictured below) to work with us as our Scientific Content Producer for the project - he's been working on designing our sandbox so that we'll be able to take it around for classroom demonstrations and calibrating all the pieces of the setup.

Now that Tom has finished the calibration process, we've now got the open-source software up and running (see image below), which was an exciting milestone, and the next step will be to work on building in a contaminant marker so that we'll be able to run simulations of contaminant flow.

Tom Hartley

Tom Hartley, the new Scientific Content Producer

Open-source software

Open-source software


In our second month, we've implemented and tested object detection via the Kinect, so we're now able to set a contaminant source for the simulations that we're looking to implement over the next month. We've also been finalising the design of the sandbox and hope to have it completed soon!