UNSW Mining Engineering has created the Mining Education Australia (MEA) Mineral Awareness VR experience to take students on a virtual journey to explore the origins of the mineral ingredients required to make a smartphone.
As part of this journey the student is able to virtually visit some mine sites around Australia where these minerals are mined. These visits are enabled through 360-degree video footage and 360-degree images recorded at mine sites. These videos include interviews with engineers to explain the operation and the process of mining that is employed, their role in the operation and some of the social/environmental considerations of the mine. Throughout the interview as aspects of the operation are mentioned the student's view transitions to a 360-degree image of that feature to simulate a tour of the operation.
The Samsung Gear VR headset has been used as the enabling VR equipment, with a fleet of 20 units housed within the School of Mining Engineering. This VR experience has been received extremely well by students. It has proved an engaging method to educate into the need for mining to support our quality of life, how mines operate, the role of engineers in mines and social/environmental considerations behind a mining operation.
The value of VR experiences to provide virtual site tours, field trips and industrial visits is starting to be realised at the University level. More courses should start to develop this capability to deepen the learning experience of their students.