VR Driving Simulator // MINT BOX
Virtual Reality Driving Simulator
During this project was developed a didactic methodology for a virtual reality-based workshop which supplements the school curricula of secondary education institutions. A virtual reality driving simulation application is used in order to enhance the students understanding of diferent physical and technical phenomena as well as to teach technical skills, such as the ability to program virtual reality applications. We observed that this methodology helps to reduce complexity and aid the understanding of the subject. This is due to the three main contributing factors: Immersion, interaction and engagement. The enthusiasm for the virtual reality systems kept the students motivated not only during the teaching units, but it has also inspired them to pursue the STEM careers.
The following goals were dened for this project:
1. to increase the students interest in science and engineering through creative work and hands-on learning
2. to promote the development of skills required for identifying and solving complex, interdisciplinary problems from STEM fields
3. to create situations that reinforce the connection between thinking, action and intuition
4. to stimulate individual and self-determined learning
5. to strengthen the students imaginative faculties using modern media
6. to create a sustainable inner drive for further education in engineering and
The target group included public school students from Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, grades nine through twelve. The entirety of the workshop lasted one term. The project covered three topics: control loops, energy and mechanics. A total of 18 teaching units took place, with a duration of 90 minutes each.
The driving simulator was introduced in the classroom as a low cost VR setup, serving as a basis for virtual reality exercises. Originally the driving simulator was developed by students of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology during a
practical course on virtual reality. The hardware used for the stereo visual output consists of powerwall equipped with headtracking. The students at the university built a seat-box with a real car seat and used the gaming controller
Logitech G25 as car interface (steering wheel, pedals and gear lever). The software solution contains a 3D model of the car, a racing track, the environment, weather conditions and sound. The most important part of the package was the driving simulation and the physics (e.g. collision detection).
The Einstein Gymnasium has a well-equipped computer lab with internetconnected laptops available to each student. These are a necessary prerequisite for any type of programming workshop or IT driven lesson. The virtual reality system had been added to the classroom like the one constructed by the students in the virtual reality practical course, but instead of powerwall HMDs were used. This setup is quite immersive but still low-cost and thus a ordable for a school that would want to adopt the project's methodology.
This project would have been impossible without the support of the Baden-Wurttemberg Stiftung foundation and our colleagues Jurica Katicic and Johannes Herter, who contributed greatly both to the conception and the realization of the project. The authors would like to thank the teachers and the students from the two partner schools, the Einstein Gymnasium and the Tulla Realschule in Kehl, Germany. A special thanks goes to the university students from the practical course in virtual reality at KIT who created the VR driving simulator.
Applications and Documentation (German only) of the project can be downloaded here. Please contact us for password.
Häfner, P., Häfner, V., and Ovtcharova, J., Experiencing Physical and Technical Phenomena in Schools Using Virtual Reality Driving Simulator Learning and Collaboration Technologies, Technology-Rich Environments for Learning and Collaboration, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Volume 8524, 2014, pp 50-61