Recently, the prospects of virtual laboratory environments developed using commercial multi-player computer game engines and their associated software development kits for providing undergraduate engineering and science students with engaging and interactive laboratory experiences have started to be explored. There is a strong potential for such virtual laboratory environments to be readily accepted by today’s students who are accustomed to using advanced communication and entertainment technologies. While online laboratories based on either remotely operated hardware or pure software simulations are often criticized for lacking student interactivity and for being limited to the data collection and result analysis aspects of traditional hands-on laboratories, these shortcomings can be overcome with virtual laboratory environments implemented based on multi-player computer game engines. For instance, game engines allow one to include into the experimental procedure the assembly process of the experimental setups before carrying out any data collection. Furthermore, such virtual laboratory environments can facilitate and even force certain interactions by the students of a laboratory group. This paper discusses recent developments at Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) that enable students to assemble laboratory equipment inside a virtual laboratory environment implemented using the “Source” game engine (1) and “Source” software development kit (2). In this environment, the students can interactively select and assemble components of laboratory hardware into complete experimental setups, which are subsequently used in experimental procedures. This assembly process can be performed in a cooperative fashion with multiple students collaboratively interacting with each other as well as with the experimental equipment. Such game-based educational tools are expected to find applications for teaching and training in a wide array of fields.

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