Projects Underway

Community outreach project: Improving secondary students’ three-dimensional visualization skills using an augmented reality sandbox

Nancy Mahlen

Project Team

Geneseo, State University College at


Tier One

Project Abstract:

Students often struggle with the 3D visualization skills necessary to interpret a 3D landscape from a 2D, flat topographic map. The augmented reality sandbox (ARS) bridges the gap between 2D and 3D visualization by projecting a digital topographic map directly onto a landscape created in a sandbox. As that sandbox landscape is altered, the topographic map dynamically adjusts in real time to match the landscape, giving students the opportunity to interactively discover how to read topographic maps. We have incorporated two ARS models built on wheels into our introductory labs at SUNY Geneseo and have done demonstrations for local secondary schools. These demonstrations have generated numerous requests from local secondary teachers to borrow the ARS for use in their classrooms. The secondary setting is an ideal place for students to explore and manipulate the ARS, as labs are not limited to one two-hour lab session per topic. These younger students have more time to practice, theorize and discover new ways of using the sandbox for understanding, interpreting and reducing 3D data to 2D expressions. Sharing this technology with local schools is beneficial to us to increase our pedagogical database and it provides schools with a tactile and interactive tool.

Project Outcome: