"Physical laboratory experiments are built to provide students with hands-on opportunities and have long been crucial for engineering training. The Mechanical Engineering (ME) department of a large state university name omitted] proudly claims to be one of the few in the state that still provide so many hands-on labs to students. However, due to the rapid growth in number of enrollments, limited and shared space, and increasing difficulty of scheduling due the semester conversion, undergraduate students have experienced an increasing difficulty gaining valuable hands on experience in the lab.
Our group is focused on creating a virtual lab of the Fluid Mechanics laboratory to supplement existing physical lab exercises. The virtual lab is designed to enrich students’ lab experience, stimulate interests, and bring more individual exercise time
In this presentation, I will share our very first stage progress of creating two types of virtual labs. The first type is a virtual lab tour created from 360° pictures of the physical laboratory rooms and equipped with detailed instructions for each experiment. It is used as a pre-lab instruction tool. The second type is a virtual reality (VR) simulation lab space created using Unity game engine that allows students to interact with a simulation of one lab experiment. This is used for students to collect more data outside the physical lab meeting.
Preliminary feedback from students of using both types of virtual labs has shown to be positive. Suggestions for further improvement are also collected and incorporated into next stage of development.