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Scale Worlds

Create an immersive virtual environment, where students can see various scientific entities in relation to their own bodies and conduct realistic size comparisons that cannot be replicated in everyday experience.



Scale Worlds is a virtual learning environment which enhances participants’ conception about size and scale. It has been funded through a National Science Foundation award titled Virtual Reality to Improve Students’ Understanding of Scale in STEM. For two years I worked under the guidance of Dr. Matthew Peterson and in close collaboration with professors and doctoral students from the Human Factors Engineering and STEM Education departments to design and develop this scale cognition learning environment. In this project, I have also acted as manager for three hourly design technicians.

I was highly involved in this project, taking on diverse tasks including drafting design documents, planning out the user experience, coding in C#, 3D modeling in Blender, and developing in Unity. I have assisted in running two rounds of qualitative usability studies. Results from the first round have been published in a Human Factors journal. The majority of our design decisions have been made in response to the usability studies or are backed up by literature on the subject. Alejandra Magaña’s Framework for Size and Scale Cognition has been an invaluable resource during our design process.

astronaut in scale worlds
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Imge of CAVE Cave Augmented Virtual Environment (CAVE)
image of HMD with 3d model representing the user Head Mounted Display (HMD)

When designing the new version of the environment, the scheme was split up into 3 main sections

Imge of CAVE

user interface: flat interactive elements

Imge of CAVE

armatures: three-dimensional things which aren't entities

Imge of CAVE

entities: three dimensional things like animals, stars, atoms, cells, etc. which are used as landmark things to measure

The way in which the user interacts with the environment was designed to mimic changing an exponent in scientific notation and moving decimal places in standard notation: concepts seen in American science and math curricula

gif of the decimal dance animation

Animation of decimal moving

diagram of numeric panel

Diagram of the numeric panel that the user interacs with

A variety of enivronment schema were designed in two or more ways and then put through user testing with user interface experts. Later testing will be done with general "non-expert" students.

diagram of forest layout

the forest

diagram of path layout

the path

User research revealed a path forwards as well as opening up a conversation about "usability vs theory".

image of some research descriptions
image of some research descriptions
image of some research descriptions
image of some research descriptions
image of professor in cave
image of proffessor in cave