Augmented Reality Sandbox

Norfolk Collegiate’s lower school is home to an augmented reality (AR) sandbox thanks to the efforts of lower school science teacher Melissa Economou, alumnus Alex Stubbs-Yates ’17, Collegiate’s technology team Bob Roberts and Sarah Stradling, The Budd Group’s head of maintenance Ron Chupik and Norfolk Sheriff Joe Barron.  

How does it work?

Using a SmartBoard projector and Xbox Connect, a high-powered computer projects a topographic map onto the reflective white sand in the box below. 

Students mold and shape the sand to create new landforms, experiencing and creating their own topographical changes and evolving weather patterns.

What does this mean for students?

It’s a living manifestation of Collegiate’s mission to create doers and thinkers. 

“The project combines 3-D visualization applications with a hands-on sandbox exhibit to teach earth science concepts,” said Economou. “The system teaches geographic, geologic and hydrologic concepts such as how to read a topographic map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees, etc.”

“Students are using technology in a very meaningful way to see and feel the Earth change while learning the processes that cause the Earth’s surface to move and change. It also teaches ways to be more environmentally conscience to prevent erosive processes,” said Economou. 

The applications for the sandbox stretch from pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 science curriculum. “It has applications from simple Earth features such as lakes and mountains to Virginia region topography to weathering and erosion concepts, to high level processes discussed in AP Marine Biology,” said Economou.

“Furthermore, this project seeks to raise public awareness and increase understanding and stewardship of freshwater lake ecosystems and earth science processes using immersive three-dimensional (3-D) visualization of lake and watershed processes, supplemented by tabletop science activity stations,” said Economou.

See the sandbox in action by clicking here.