Learning 3-Dimensional (3D) solid modeling using Computer Aided Design (CAD) softwares can be a challenge, requiring users to have good spatial understanding of 3D space and have the ability to adapt to a new environment where their existing skills and knowledge might not apply. This makes both teaching and learning 3D modeling difficult. Moreover, learning 3D modeling can help enhance spatial thinking skills, which plays a critical role in achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Spatial thinking skills can be enhanced by training, life experience, and practice. However, 3D modeling alone is not sufficient as a platform for rich 3D experience since 3D models are totally isolated from the actual 3D physical world. To address this challenge, this research is exploring ways idea to make 3D modeling approachable for users with varied levels of expertise by introducing different scaffolds to 3D modeling.

User testing a chess piece using 3DARVisualizer. The user is holding a maker and the camera on his laptop detects the marker and places the 3D model on top of it for the user to debug.

3DARVisualizer is an web based Augmented Reality (AR) tool developed to help test 3D models before printing them. It is a marker-based application and the instructions for testing the app can be found here.

For the proof-of-concept we conducted a pilot study where we developed the first version of the app with predefined 3D models that users could select and test. See image below for the user flow diagram

User flow diagram of the first version of 3DARVisualizer, where users could only select pre-designed models and test them with the AR marker

Storyboard depicting how the 3DARVisualizer app can be useful to both students and teachers:

Storyboard with nine grids showing the usage of the app in a classroom where a student (Jenny) is struggling with creating a 3D model of a house and not sure if her model will 3D print properly or not. She reaches out to her teacher who suggests her to try the 3DARVisualizer app to test her design. Jenny tests her design with the app and realizes the gap/alignment issues and fixes it.
Affinity Map showing the needs of the users who were interviewed after testing the initial prototype of the 3DARVisualizer app

Paper Citations:

  • Srinjita Bhaduri, Peter Gyory, and Tamara Sumner. 2020. 3DARVisualizer: Debugging 3D models using Augmented Reality. Demo accepted for FabLearn Flagship conference NYC 2020.
  • Srinjita Bhaduri, Katie Van Horne, and Tamara Sumner. 2019. Designing an Informal Learning Curriculum to Develop 3D Modeling Knowledge and Improve Spatial Thinking Skills. In Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM. Link
  • Bhaduri, S., Van Horne, K., Gyory, P., Ngo, H., & Sumner, T. (2018, June), Enhancing 3D Modeling with Augmented Reality in an After-school Engineering Program (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. Link

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