AFFLUENT EFFLUENT WASTE WATER MANAGEMENT - A PILOT PROJECT USING AUGMENTED REALITY FOR STUDENT ENGAGEMENT IN AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION
Agriculture is difficult to get young people into – it is perceived as labour intensive, non-academic and poorly paid. And that is a problem – because the world has a problem: there is a soaring global population and a need to feed more with less resources. The solution, or part of the solution is seen to be in the use of technology – which is pervasive and fascinating to young people of today, both in its use for agricultural production (eg drones) and for educational purposes. The question is: can we harness technology to engage students and to develop the new skills needed in 21st Century Agriculture?
This project outlined was a pilot project investigating the feasibility of using Hololens technology for teaching in the environmental and agricultural space. Our aim for the project was to test student engagement with the technology and appropriate subject matter (in this case waste water management), through using Microsoft’s Augmented Reality technology, the Hololens (https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/hololens), and to also test the use of technology and model/simulation for learning about the issue.
The ‘Scenario’ for the pilot was that students/players were the owner of 1/2ha “Composite Fish Culture Farm”. Their aquaculture business used the Pond system for raising fish which has the basic requirement that it be self-sustaining as it grows plants and algae for fish food. Fish are very susceptible to chemicals in water – they need oxygen to survive and anything that influences that including temperature needs to be managed very carefully – in other words, fish are complete captives of their environment. Further if the pond is being used as a way to manage effluent from a production situation (eg Piggery or Feedlot), chemicals such as nitrates, phosphates etc, need to be monitored daily as does the buildup of aquatic weeds.
The Learning Objectives for students working in the scenario included that they be able to work either as an individual or collaboratively in groups to:
(i) Identify the reasons that led them to believe there may be issues in the pond;
(ii) Evaluate potential factors that may have contributed to the health of the fish;
(iii) Identify and describe the process behind the actions they needed to take to make sure this situation did not happen again;
(iii) be able to create a chart to test, record and map the current levels of O2, pH, nutrient content, air and water temperatures against the optimum levels required to maintain a healthy pond.
The Augmented Reality brief to enable us to evaluate the aims - was to create a 3D holographic immersive online pond environment behind which a number of biological and chemical models ran that enable components of the pond (water quality, fish, plants etc) to change over a time stepped series. The idea being for students to interact with the holographic model to pull apart the system and make decisions that had real time effect on the model that was visually displayed. A further aim was for the technology to be used in small and large group teaching either via a single Hololens unit or with multiple Hololens units and with delivery via Web and Mobile Phone. Evaluation of the Project in terms of student engagement, student enjoyment, learning outcomes, and feasibility of the technology for use for large and small classroom was undertaken and will be discussed along with the Challenges encountered and Solutions developed.