Measuring 143 feet in diameter, the iconic, steel lattice dome that graces the top of the San Diego Central Library at Joan & Irwin Jacobs Common is larger than the U.S. Capitol dome (135 feet) and about the same size as the dome topping the Parthenon in Rome. To withstand high winds, it was constructed from a network of eight steel ribs and steel-mesh sails and tied together by cable and pipe grids. The dome including the ribs and sails weighs close to 275 tons (550,000 pounds). Due to the complexity of the design, special computer programs had to be developed to test and model different ideas.
These are some of the science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) concepts that 9th grade students at e3 Civic High, a charter school housed within the Central Library, learned about when studying the library’s dome as part of the Qualcomm Wireless Reach STEAMing Ahead with Mobile Learning program.
To bridge the gap between academic content and real-world learning experiences, this program leveraged a unique element of the Central Library structure to engage students in learning about the impact of STEAM on the world around them. Students used tablets and vision-recognition Augmented Reality (AR) to better understand how the integration of mobile technology can help prepare them for future careers in STEAM fields.
Wireless Reach collaborated with the San Diego Public Library Foundation, San Diego Public Library and e3 Civic High to make this program a reality. Trigger Global developed the AR app, using Vuforia technology. Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit, conducted the external evaluation.
Throughout the program, students used 4G-connected tablets to access a unique AR app while standing outside on the Central Library’s Qualcomm Dome Terrace, located on the 9th floor of the library. The AR app guided the students through interactive lessons with digital information embedded within the library’s physical environment, including photos, videos, text, diagrams and charts to illustrate the STEAM aspects of the dome’s design and construction.
Each section included a quiz to assess student comprehension about a specific academic content area. Upon successful completion of all areas, the students were able to take a photo next to the augmented 3D image of the Central Library dome displayed on their tablet screen.
On April 28, 2016 we were honored to have several distinguished speakers attending an event announcing the program’s evaluation results, including San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; Misty Jones, San Diego Public Library Director; and Don Rosenberg, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Qualcomm.
Project Tomorrow CEO Julie Evans announced the results of the 2015-16 school year’s implementation.
A key highlight from the evaluation report was that the majority of 9th graders agreed that using the 4G and Wi-Fi connected tablet with the AR content increased their engagement in learning about the library’s dome. Students also cited many benefits to the learning experience, including increased enjoyment in learning, ability to work on the content with their classmates, and being more interested in the dome’s structure and architecture than they first envisioned.
In addition, four out of 10 students said they were more interested in exploring a STEAM career field after having this mobile learning experience, and teachers believed that the mobile AR environment could be used successfully to impact student learning in many other academic areas.
Students who participated in the program attended the event and invited guests to use their tablets and have a hands-on experience using the AR app.
I had the opportunity to talk with Alyssa, an e3 Civic High teacher who participated in the program, and she confirmed that using the technology has whet her students’ appetites for careers in engineering.
As a manager in a company whose success depends on a solid workforce of talented, highly skilled engineers, I was pleased to hear how engaged the students were at a young age, and look forward to hearing about their future innovations.