A Brief Background
Practical laboratory experience is an essential part of engineering education wherein students are introduced to data analysis, problem solving, testing, and scientific interpretation. However, such laboratories are not always available due to the lack of space, high costs and time constraints. An emerging trend to address this issue is to develop web-based virtual laboratories and modules to replace and/or supplement physical laboratories and/or courses.

An Overview of VIEW—Virtual Interactive Engineering on the Web
Project VIEW addresses the ongoing challenge of maintaining a high level of interest, enthusiasm, and information retention among students by introducing a Virtual Interactive Engineering on the Web. These virtual modules can be used as a supplement in certain courses with the objective to improve students' understanding of fundamental concepts.

The virtual web-based laboratories proposed in this project need no additional software except for a free X3D web-browser plug-in. The only recommended equipment is 3D glasses for viewing (relatively inexpensive and only necessary for stereoscopic imaging) and overhead projectors in classrooms which are readily available. In addition, students can access these modules at any time from any computer with Internet connection.

The simulator implementation is based on the three key technologies: PHP, X3D, and JavaScript. PHP is the web scripting language of choice for our website. X3D is an ISO standard with an open architecture for real-time graphics processing. All virtual scenes in the VIEW project are created in X3D based on the models designed in SolidWorks software. JavaScript provides the interaction between the HTML graphical user interface controls, virtual 3D scene, and graph/displays panel.

To run the simulators, install two free software components in the following order:
  1. A web browser, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer. Download either of them at:
    - Mozilla Web Site
    - Internet Explorer Web Site
  2. An X3D viewer; we recommend BS Contact:
    - Bitmanagement Software
The recommended screen resolutions are 1024x768, 1152x864, and 1280x1024.

This work has been supported by a Teaching and Learning Grant 2007-2008 awarded by AASU's Faculty Development Committee and by a MATH + SCIENCE = SUCCESS Grant awarded by AASU's STEM INITIATIVE 2008-2009.

Our sincere thanks to Dr. David Scott, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, GaTech Savannah, for providing us with access to the equipment and required data.
©2010, Felix G. Hamza-Lup. Design by Ivan Sopin.