Dr. Steven Binz

Main Content

Physics education and augmented reality

One of the reasons that Physics can be difficult for students to learn is that some of the concepts are abstract - such as the topic of Electric Fields. These can't be seen under normal circumstances and it is difficult to create experiments that allow students to interact with charges and electric fields in a clear and concrete way beyond simple recognition that charged objects can interact. To help student understanding, I have written two AR applications. Co-op Electrostatics is pictured to the right and allows a group of students to interact with simulated charges, test charges, and electric field vectors. The charges are fixed in space while the test charges are allowed to move as dictated by the electric field. Since this is AR, the application is aware of where the objects in the room are and the test charges will bounce off of them. Students say they really enjoy using the program and also claim that it has helped them learn the material - but further work must be done to see if this is true. For more details see this video.

A second program, EM Goals, challenges students to redirect a charge launched across the room into a target using fixed charges and magnetic fields created by Helmholtz coils. Again, the application knows where everything in the room is so depending upon the layout of the room the student will need to redirect the charges around tables, chairs, and corners.

Geomorphic Morphometrics

The field of geomorphic morphometrics (a technique allowing quantification of shape variables alone) is moving more and more toward using 3D models of specimens instead of 2D pictures. While these models can be digitized using traditional computer monitors, manipulating 3D models on a 2D screen is not intuitive nor does it show depth, thus collapsing a 3D scan into a 2D space that can make the process more difficult. I have written a program for the HoloLens that allows the user to select and digitize models in 3D with much more intuitive controls and choose points with increased accuracy. Voice commands can be used to raise or lower the model as well as rotate it. The user can also walk around the room, even lay under the model to see it from different perspectives. To the right is an example of an adult turtle being digitized.

This work was recently published: Cordero, GA, Stearns, S, Quinteros, K, Berns, CM, Binz, SM, Janzen, F. The postembryonic transformation of the shell in emydine box turtles. Evolution & Development. 2019; 21: 297– 310. https://doi.org/10.1111/ede.12307