The School of Engineering has developed a Virtual Reality (VR) laboratory in the teaching of MECH2002 Fluid Mechanics (a second-year core unit for Mechanical and Civil Engineering students).
The use of VR technology has facilitated bringing 2D objects to life and making visualisation a reality, enabling students to learn in an immersive way. The practical implications of this are immense, as it has opened new ways for students to learn skills that are otherwise difficult to teach. This is particularly important for the Mechanical and Civil Engineering units that require learning 3D engineering design solutions for real applications. For example, in this unit, students learn about flow behaviour around objects such as vehicles, aircraft, and trains. The VR laboratory has allowed them to understand the main features of 3D flows, such as vortices which are critical to obtain the drag and lift forces. Students completed an assessment task relevant to the VR experience in which they prepared a laboratory report based on their observations and calculations.
The use of VR also provided a cost-effective solution for the delivery of high-quality teaching in engineering units which do not require a large physical space. This is an issue which can be challenging for any organisation. If we were to replicate what we did in the VR laboratory, we would need a wind tunnel with a cross-section of at least 3 × 3 metres which is expensive and requires space. These facilities are only available in organisations like NASA!
The students were surveyed after the VR laboratory and 87% of students found that the VR experience was highly engaging that enhanced their “learning on a different level”. VR is a highly beneficial tool that improves students’ engagement in their learning as it brings excitement to the class, and is “extremely interactive” and helps to “understand and visualise concepts”. The survey also showed that all students who attended the VR sessions (more than 90 students) would like to see other units utilise VR technology. There are already plans in place for this to occur with the Civil Engineering Program. They are currently working on utilising different VR tools for the structural engineering units that will allow students to walk between different floors in a 3D building, conduct measurements, and use the data for their design!
Staff who have any further questions about the VR used should contact Dr Fatemeh Salehi, email@example.com or Associate Professor Rouzbeh Abbassi, firstname.lastname@example.org .
Dr Fatemeh Salehi is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering as well as Co-Director of Macquarie Sustainable Energy Research Centre. Dr Salehi’s expertise is in the development of physical models for computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations of turbulent flows to advance clean energy technologies. She has extensive teaching experience in various engineering subjects including Fluid Mechanics, Applied Numerical Engineering and Thermodynamics.
Associate Professor Rouzbeh Abbassi is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering. His expertise is risk and safety analysis for different engineering processes to ensure safe and reliable operations of the system. He is currently the Civil Engineering Program Leader with teaching experience in various engineering units such as Water and Wastewater Management, and Safety and Risk Engineering.