Hands on Learning at NRE: The Augmented Reality Sandbox

With a commitment to philanthropically support the community, Duke Energy annually provides more than $30 million in charitable grants, with a focus on three areas: K to career, the environment, and community impact.

Judy Krebs, an Education Coordinator from the Clermont County Water and Soil Conservation District, is one of the recent recipients of a Duke Energy Grant. Krebs recently visited New Richmond Elementary to show off what her $7,200 grant could buy: a sandbox. 

For the first time ever in a school setting, Krebs was revealing the Augmented Reality Sandbox with integrated technology to manipulate changing topographic maps which show landforms, bodies of water, and more.

“Duke Energy has partnered with the Clermont County Water and Soil Conservation District for many years now but this project has been the biggest educational projects of our partnership,” stated Warren Walker of Duke Energy. “For us at Duke Energy, we are worried about conservation and how we can be good stewards of what we’ve been given, but also what you are seeing here is the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education element of this project. This element is equally as important because this is our future as far as the workforce is concerned.”

Before diving into the augmented reality sandbox, Krebs gave Mrs. Zimmerman’s fourth grade class a quick, crash course by looking at a topographic map of New Richmond. Being able to familiarize the students own environment and school in relation to the Ohio River was just enough to get their toes wet and spark their curiosity before getting their hands in the new Augmented Reality Sandbox. 

With mounds of sand here and there, some valleys dug throughout, and contour lines and colors shining down, the topographic maps of New Richmond that students had just looked at began to come to life. Wiggling her fingers above a mound, Krebs was able to show students how rain changes landforms as shown by the realtime changing of the contour lines. She then pulled from recent national weather events by picking up a handful of the kinetic sand and throwing it in the middle of the augmented body of water to replicate a hurricane. **see attached videos**

“As part of the Ohio Learning Standards, students are challenged to learn about land and how it changes where they live,” stated fourth grade New Richmond Elementary Science and Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Zimmerman. “Having this sandbox and the technology that goes into it, students have the ability to get a birds eye view of their environment and where they live. It is providing them a unique, real-life experience.”

All around the sandbox, students voices of awe and excitement could be heard. Beyond the ohhhhs, ahhhhs, and cools, one student exclaimed, “Building the sand and making mountains like we saw on the maps was so cool. Then being able to make it rain and watch the mountains colors and lines change was really awesome!”

It was with this comment that Krebs knew her job was done and done well. Thanks to the grant provided by Duke Energy, students at NRE were able to partake in next level learning that will dramatically impact how students view the earth and world around them.

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