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Enhancing Materials Research Through Innovative 3D Environments and Interactive Manuals for Data Visualization and Analysis

  • Claudia Flores (a1), Teenie Matlock (a1) and Lilian P. Dávila (a2)

Spatial intelligence plays an important role in the success of nanoscience students specific to their visual ability to perceive structures in three dimensions. The NSF-funded IDEAS project makes use of a unique interactive 3D visualization system, based on immersive environment technology, for research and learning in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at UC Merced. In order to determine the effectiveness of the immersive system on nanoscience learning, a pilot project was conducted with undergraduate students, which showed the success of immersive systems in the science learning process. Overall, the immersive environment provided complete control in the construction and analysis of carbon-based nanostructure models. Results also showed the 3D visualization system benefited students with low spatial abilities. To facilitate a better understanding of the structure and properties of nanostructures, the IDEAS project has recently been expanded to allow accelerated simulations for materials research. It is important to integrate these new applications into undergraduate level courses in order to strengthen materials science education, recruit and retain future students, and to adapt modern technologies for future materials science educators. The expansion of the IDEAS project relies on the flexibility of this system to serve as a research tool as well as an innovative resource for science education. To adapt the 3D visualization and computing system and help engage students early in engineering research, our research group gathered practical technical documentation geared towards education of science users, based on both Cognitive Science and MSE Education (MSE-Ed) research. The work presented here involves developing educational resources through the design of audio-visual manuals for effective nanoscience learning. The manuals are being created using commercial software to produce interactive electronic books (ebooks). During the planning of the audio-visual manuals, we discovered that it is imperative to provide adequate educational tools as well as efficient guiding principles for the large number of visual, inductive, and active learners in general engineering education. This interdisciplinary project combines fundamental concepts from materials science and cognitive science, particularly project-based learning and active processing, while considering the concepts of overloading, and the unreliability of natural language, among other topics. This investigation will serve society by enhancing materials science research and education, as well as influencing engineering, chemistry, computer science and cognitive science fields, among others.

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