AR Product Teardown


Visualization, contextualization, and hands-on experiences are key to effective engineering education, and go hand-in-hand with the understanding of theoretical concepts. Learners must employ highly-developed visual and spatial thinking, yet teaching still often relies on two-dimensional boards and screens to render inherently three-dimensional concepts. Limitations to resources (e.g., equipment or machine shop access), geography, and safety considerations constrain the learner’s opportunity to see or perform authentic hands-on activities. Augmented Reality (AR) provides a compelling opportunity to address these gaps because of its inherent three dimensionality, connection to the learner’s physical context, scalability, and responsiveness. AR-augmented instruction can be a cost-effective approach that makes accessible time- and resource-constrained hands-on activities through virtualization, and bridges the gap between in-person and fully virtual instruction. Many AR apps are hosted through the ubiquitous smartphone and would therefore increase the feasibility of implementation for a wider range of institutions of higher learning. However, AR instruction is a relatively new and growing research field and the assessment of learning gains has primarily focused on lower level cognitive skills.

Implemented and published work

We published a paper (Welsh 2021) presenting the pedagogy, design and development, and course implementation of a vision-based AR app to teach higher level cognitive skills in Bloom’s taxonomy: apply, analyze, and evaluate. The app enables learners to manipulate, and virtually disassemble various parts and products (representing high-volume manufacturing processes), while receiving scaffolded guidance. We used an iterative process to design the app (v1 and v2) by implementing user feedback. The v2 app has now been released for hundreds of learners in an online manufacturing course (Fundamentals of Manufacturing Processes — launches again summer 2023). Demo of v2 app is below.

Learner reflections reveal engagement with manufacturing analysis, experience of the app, and attitudes towards AR technology. The development of a codebook was used to evaluate learner reflections with the goal of understanding the opportunities learners have to engage with manufacturing analysis. The iterative development of the codebook and results of applying the codebook to learner reflections are reported; overall inter-rater reliability computed using Cohen’s Alpha is 85.48%. The experience feedback indicates that the activity was well received with 70% of users indicating an overall positive experience using the app. Our analysis also indicates that students found the app helped them develop meaningful engineering insights.

Ongoing work (unpublished)

1) Open-ended disassembly (v3 app): Instead of using a script that dictates one-way product disassembly, we are now developing open-ended product disassembly. We do this by examining product design and the physical task of disassembly. We then define the relationships between part models by developing a tree of physical constraints. In this new modality, students identify “weak points” and must choose the proper tool to disconnect, pry, soften, or detach. The yellow boxed “clues” (from v2) revealed to students tell-tale signs of manufacturing processes and functions of each product subassembly. The v3 app will offer richer opportunities for learning: the physical relationships between parts and dynamics of disassembly captured in app will enable students to learn about manufacturing assembly and product design. Open-ended exploration also further enables students to engage in authentic inquiry. Finally, now that we can offer experiences of open-ended disassembly, we can begin to look for patterns that differentiate novice and expert disassembly. Demo of v3 app is below.

2) Extend the AR platform to additional products to teach more manufacturing processes. It would be useful to develop a complete set of AR learning experiences to complement each topic in an introduction to manufacturing course (e.g. MIT’s 2.008 Design and Manufacturing II). Here shown: inspecting, measuring, and comparing pipe fittings for the purpose of studying casting processes.