The building industry has a major impact on the US economy and accounts for: $1 trillion in annual spending; 40% of the nation’s primary energy use; and 9 million jobs. Despite its massive impact, the industry has been criticized for poor productivity compared with other industries and billions of dollars in annual waste because of poor interoperability. Furthermore, the industry has been approaching a “labor cliff”: there are not enough new individuals entering the industry to offset the vacancies left by an aging, retiring workforce. To remain effective, this critical industry will need to do better with less. In order to prepare civil engineering students for careers in this industry, educators have aimed to replicate the processes associated with real-world projects through design/build educational activities like the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Decathlon, Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) Tiny House Competition, and DOE’s Challenge Home Competition. These learning experiences help situate civil engineering concepts in an authentic learning environment. Unfortunately, not all universities have the financial resources necessary to fund this type of hands-on project. Technology has the potential to mitigate some of these inequities. Thus, the multi-faceted objective of this project is to: develop mixed reality (MR) technology aimed at sufficiently replicating physical design and construction learning environments to enable access to students at institutions without sufficient resources; and assess the impact of a MR-facilitated cyberlearning environment on promoting cognitive-, affective-, and skill-based learning that occurs during traditional (in-persona) design and construction activities. This research will explore a fundamental question: Can MR technology enable educators to simulate physical design and construction activities at low costs to enable students at all institutions to gain exposure to these types of hands-on learning environments? In order to address this question, we employ an iterative development approach according to Human Centered Design principles to support learning according to the Carnegie Foundation’s Three Apprenticeships Model (i.e., learning related to “Head”, “Hand”, and “Heart”). In order to achieve these aims, the research team uses MR technology (i.e., a Microsoft HoloLens®) to understand the extent to which this mode of education allows students to demonstrate knowledge similar to that which is gained through physical design and construction learning environments. This paper will presents highlights from the first year of this project.
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