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It's Child's Play.....The Augmented Reality Sandbox!!

One year later and a LOT of patience and I'm finally finished with my Augmented Reality sandbox!!!  Needless to say I can't WAIT to share it with my students and colleagues.  She's all set up in my classroom and ready to go.  Curious what it is?  This blog provides an overview on how I obtained the grant, the resources required to build one yourself and how I got the beast up and running!!

The Grant

Toshiba America Foundation was the GENEROUS supporter of this project.  In December, 2016 I was notified that my request for $1,500 was approved.  Here's a link to the actual grant that I wrote including standards alignment, supplies, budget, rational, etc.

The Materials

The materials I used for the project were:

-Kinect Sensor (1st Generation)
-InFocus IN116a DLPWXGA 3000 Im Projector
-Computer with INVIDIA Graphics processor
-Three Bags of Sand
-Large container of cornstarch
-1 2 x 6 x 8
-Plywood 19/32-in x 4-ft x 8-ft
-1 2 x 4 x 10
-1 container of wood screws (2 inch)
-1 Gallon Paint
-2 shelving brackets
-2 bungee cords
-Package of Zip Strips

Construction of the Sandbox

The design and construction of the actual box was truly up to me as long it followed general dimensional guidelines. The final size of my box was: 40"x30". Here are some specs that I followed.

Construction of Mounted Unit

Constructing the mounted bracket proved to be a BIT more troublesome and it took me a few goes to get the brackets mounted onto the vertical 2 x 4s and the camera aimed at the box correctly.  It was also tricky getting the kinect sensor approximately 40 inches from the surface of the sandbox.   Here is the configuration that worked for me:  
After I had everything in place, I used bungee cords to secure the equipment, and the zip strips to get the electric cords snug and secured out of the way.

Mixing the Medium

Some websites will say you need to buy Sandtastic White Sandbox Sand which is a kinetic sand designed to be very moldable.  I was able to use a 50 lb bag of play sand and mix it with six cups of corn starch and six cups of water.   Once you've added the corn starch and water,  harness your inner child and stir vigorously with your hands.  

Technical Components

Downloading Linux was the next hurdle.  Having NEVER used Linux this step was VERY VERY frustrating.  The key was to have a CLEAN PC with no operating system on it.  I used UBUNTU which guided me through downloading the operating system onto a jump drive and then I did a clean boot from that jump drive to get the operating system onto the new PC.

The directions HERE were fabulous.  They took me STEP BY STEP through the process of installing Ubuntu, calibrating the Kinex, aligning the Kinex, calculating the base plane, measuring the 3D extent of sand surface, positioning the projector, calibrating the sandbox and finally adjusting the sea level.

YES there was some frustration.   Some things INTUITIVE to the writer of the directions were NOT SO INTUITIVE for me.  Here were some of the roughest patches:

#1.  Opening a Terminal WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!?!?  It was a simple right click on the screen and a blank window popped up in UBUNTU for me to type the code(s) provided in the directions.
#2.  The Kinect is FUSSY!!!   Unplug and replug it often.  It HAS to be a generation one or the plug isn't compatible with the PC.
#4.  Measure. ARE the sensor and projector the right distance from the box?  
#5.  When you are calibrating the sandbox, if the target isn't green, IT ISN'T CALIBRATING!  This took me AWHILE to figure out and caused a lot of teeth gnashing.  

Using the Sandbox

 Honestly, once it's working it's like WOW.

Where to From Here?  What to DO with the Sandbox.

Now that it's in my classroom....just add kids!!

Investigate Elevation Maps
First we will use existing elevation maps re-create and label the maps on the AR sandbox.  They can screen capture their work (or take a picture with an ipad) and upload it to Google Classroom.  The mere process of manipulating the sand to create the elevation and topographical features mimicking an existing map will aid in their learning of elevation maps and the associated scales on the maps.

Recreate Land Forms
Students will be placed in groups and challenged to recreate the area upon which a civilization that we are studying has settled.  For example, they can recreate the subcontinent of India, include the Himalayas, label the Indus River Valley and Mohenjo-Daro and include the significant features of the sub-continent.  A guide map will be provided but students need to have the landform properly labeled and the elevations must be appropriate.

Invent NEW Areas for Settlement
Students will be given an opportunity to create/invent a NEW WORLD within the sandbox.  It will then be their challenge to determine what type of civilization is likely to develop there.  They can compare/contrast that civilization with an existing civilization to determine what types of agriculture that civilization is most likely to engage in, what type of government they'd be likely to create, where invaders are most likely to threaten, etc.  

So many possibilities and only 180 days!!!  So just keep on....