Boise International STEM (BiSTEM) LLC (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2018 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 4334-4342
ISBN: 978-84-09-05948-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2018.1971
Conference name: 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 12-14 November, 2018
Location: Seville, Spain
The “Grotta del Cane” or the Cave of Dogs is located on the eastern side of the Phlegraean Fields near Pozzuoli, Naples. It is so named because of a mysterious phenomenon. Dogs and other small animals that enter the cave collapse and die, but humans walk about with no ill effects.

When told with a touch of drama, the setting and theme of this mysterious cave in Italy captivates student’s attention in the classroom and sets the stage for chemistry experiments exploring the density of gases. Students create CO2 through chemical reactions and conduct experiments that illustrate its “heavier-than-air” quality, the same quality that cause the lower levels of the far away Cave of Dogs to fill with the toxic gas. Leveraging this dramatic scenario, a special pilot program was designed using hands-on activities and a rich virtual reality (VR) version of the Cave of Dogs.

Over the course of a month, two separate groups of middle-school students experienced the Cave of Dogs curriculum unit and one of the groups experienced the VR augmented version. Both sets of students participated in hands-on experiments using inexpensive, Arduino-based sensors and data-logging hardware. Students were introduced to and trained on the use of an Air Quality sensor that output CO2 readings and they learned how to gather and visualize the data captured. They then set up chemical reactions, captured CO2, and measured gas concentrations in activities designed to encourage exploration and analysis. Pre and post-test assessments were conducted to determine program efficacy.

The second group was additionally introduced to a virtual reality (VR) experience in which they were able to enter a virtual Cave of Dogs and use special, virtual tools to visualize the CO2 and its characteristics. A fumerole, an active volcanic vent, was placed in the virtual cave as students entered and they were able to “see” the invisible, deadly gas as it entered the cave and settled into its low lying areas. The same pre and post-test assessments were conducted to determine the program efficacy with the additional VR experience.

This paper presents an engaging look at the activity and pilot program as it was conducted, the hardware and software used and the processes followed by students and educators who participated. Links to download and experience the Virtual Cave of Dogs are provided, as well as video-based tutorials on how to conduct the hands-on CO2 experiments with students. In conclusion, the final analysis of the data gathered on the effectiveness of the VR approach will be presented.
Chemistry curriculum, CO2 activities, virtual reality, data logging, Arduino, CO2 sensor.