April 13-17, 2010
Denver, Colorado, USA

Demonstrations: Description

Interconnections: STEM Learning Through the Lens of a Virtual 3D 1964/65 New York World's Fair Environment

Charles Hughes, University of Central Florida, USA
Eileen Smith, University of Central Florida, USA
Lori Walters, University of Central Florida, USA

The Media Convergence Laboratory at the University of Central Florida was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Informal Science Education grant to explore STEM learning through the lens of a virtual 3D 1964/65 New York World's Fair Environment. Targeting 9-13 year olds, these virtual fairgoers will be immersed in an accurately modeled historical world with more than 140 pavilions on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and an array arts and humanities exhibits. The virtual world can be freely explored through self-designed avatars. Discovery Points throughout the virtual environment will afford opportunities for in-depth engagement in STEM topics that will empower participants to explore the broader consequences of technological innovations.

More than a simple architecturally accurate representation of the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair – the 3-Dimensonial environment serves as an interdisciplinary platform for interaction with the era through exploration, avatars, games, user-generated content, photographs, and documents. The recreation of 640 acres provides an opportunity to explore the educational potential of large sandbox virtual environments where science, engineering, technology, culture, art and history interconnect. While users will be able to explore a vast virtual world, the project also includes an innovative user-generated content component - FutureFair. Online users will be able to create and share their personal visions of the future.

The virtual NYWF will be available for download free to users upon project completion. User can then explore the actual five themed areas of the 64/65 NYWF and FutureFair. We will be demonstrating one preliminary area of the Fair, the Transportation Area, funded through a previous National Endowment for the Humanities – Digital Humanities Start-Up grant.

Interconnections will reach beyond its virtual component through its partnership with the New York Hall of Science and the Queens Museum of Art, which are both situated in the heart of Queens in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, an urban park that hosted the 1939/1940 and 1964/65 Fairs. The New York Hall of Science will provide face-to-face youth workshops that employ problem-based learning. Single and multi-session programs will connect adolescents to STEM content presented at the Fair through the virtual world environment. Participants will create multimedia content for inclusion in the project's website. An interactive station at the Queens Museum of Art will enhance their NY World's Fair Exhibit Hall by empowering visitors to individually or collectively explore various STEM topics and the symbiotic relationships between STEM and the humanities, and by serving as an attractor for visitors to the online Fair exploration. The project will be completed in time for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the 1964 World's Fair.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - III [Close Up]

Keywords: virtual environment, virtual world, 3D, STEM, online, NYWF