Virtual Bike at the National Mall in Washington DC

After almost a year of preparation 4 of my students are bringing our virtual bike tour of the Otay Valley Regional Park to the first ever USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC. How did this happen? Let me back up and tell you the story.

The incredible Lisa Davis approached me about participating in the HP Grant our school was receiving to encourage the implementation of technology in the classroom. Through this grant we received laptops and scientific sensors.

One of the organizations we were were connected to work with was Wildcoast and the Otay Valley Regional Park. Through our discussions, we learned that the largest obstacle the park was dealing with was obscurity. There are miles of beautiful trails and natural resources that much of the San Diego community is not aware of. So we decided our project would be to help make the community more aware of this park while encouraging the use of technology.

After some brainstorming and prototyping, the students developed a basic 15 second movie of what was possible. The video was created using Blender a free and open source 3D Rendering Software. I have embedded below the prototype video (which the students despise because they have learned and improved their skills so much since then). 

Wildcoast and HP were extremely happy with our idea and so we received the green light and funding to move forward. After months of work and learning along the way, the students refined their work significantly. The user sees the virtual park through Virtual Reality Googles we received through a sponsorship with Vuzix. With the built in accelerometer, it is possible to look around 360 degrees within the virtual park.

The bike was donated by REI, and while were unable to bring it with us for logistical reasons, it is quite an exciting experience to ride. Using force sensors from Sparkfun Electronics and the Arduino Microprocessor, the game is able to detect when the rider pushes on the pedals and moves them forward in around the park.

The final video file is huge and I am unable to show you a video inside the final version of the park, but here are screenshots, pictures of the students working, and pictures of people enjoying it at the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

I hope you will be able to stop by and say hi, this is a result of a lot of student (and teacher) effort and we are honored to be a part of such an exciting event. We will be located in National Mall 3 on 4th Street. Next week I will post pictures and a report about the other events and exhibits at the festival.

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