Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Kenworthy, C. 2022. Interaction With Augmented Reality Sandbox Does Not Produce Greater Gains In Topographic Map Skills for Undergraduate Students. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Celeste Kenworthy 2022.


The augmented reality (AR) sandbox allows students to interact with topographic maps in a 3D space. Being able to understand topographic maps is important to geologists and they are taught in many introductory geology courses. Recent research has focused on whether the AR sandbox can improve students’ topographic map skills. Previous studies have found that students who interact with the AR sandbox do not score significantly better on topographic map assessments (TMAs) than their peers. One proposed reason for this is the limited time students have to interact with the AR sandbox. This study sought to address this by creating an experimental group that completed a structured activity at the AR sandbox for approximately 30 minutes, an experimental group that engaged in unstructured interaction with the AR sandbox for up to 15 minutes, and a control group that did not interact with the AR sandbox. While all student groups showed significant learning gains on the TMA, there was not a significant difference between students that interacted with the AR sandbox and those that did not. We found no significant difference in scores on the TMA between males and females. We found that self-rated topographic experience was significantly correlated with score on the TMA. We also found that students with a declared STEM major scored significantly higher on the TMA than students with non-STEM major(s). The pre-test TMAs did not follow a normal distribution, an assumption of the statistical analyses used, although we do not expect this impacted our findings. Although this study and previous studies have found that use of the AR sandbox does not improve topographic map learning, a majority of students that used the sandbox said it was their favorite activity and over 97% recommended that the sandbox activity be used in future labs. This project also developed a promising future use for the AR sandbox to improve spatial skills.