Matt Stricklen has been teaching at Akins High School in Austin, Texas for three years. His newest project is the most ambitious any of his students have undertaken, and it’s an opportunity for the students to learn about the power of ingenuity and collaboration.
Stricklen is teaching his students to build an augmented reality sandbox. The project may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it instead refers to a teaching tool students are using to learn about topography, the study of the shape and features on the surface of the Earth.
Stricklen’s sandbox works as such: a topographic map is projected onto a box full of sand, and the shapes and colors change as students move the sand within the box. The changing colors and shapes represents the elevation of the sand relative to the map’s projected surface.
In order to pursue the project, Stricklen required additional funds to purchase the projector and a graphics card to display the topography. He received a $500 Classroom Assistance Grant from the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF).
“The grant money served as the seed money for the project,” Stricklen said. “It really gave me the confidence that we could bring it to fruition.”
Stricklen’s class completed the project just in time to present it at the University of Texas’ science fair, “Hot Science, Cool Takes,” on April 28, 2017. After setting up, a crowd started to form around the sandbox, and the students turned the lights off to see the augmented reality system working as intended.
“Sometimes the kids were skeptical that we could pull it off,” Stricklen said. “It’s been interesting to see their skepticism give way to a real belief that they can get it done.”
Stricklen believes that the project will be an excellent showcase for students’ college applications.
“It’s fairly rare that students will get to show off work of this magnitude,” he said.
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