In Embry-Riddle’s virtual crash lab, students examine wreckage to determine the cause of the crash.

Our College of Aeronautics leadership and faculty worked with Chief Information Officer Becky Vasquez’s team and develop- ment partner Pinnacle Solutions, to create our first virtual learning environment — a computer- generated crash lab where a 737 airliner had skidded off a runway and broken apart. In 2016, this group came together again to develop the Aerial Robotics Virtual Lab, which has enabled us to offer a new engineering degree program, MS Unmanned Autonomous Systems Engineering. Q : What’s the experience like for students? In the crash lab, students can enter a virtual environment and act as National Transportation Safety Board inves- tigators — walking through the wreckage, zooming in on details. They collect and ana- lyze data and apply what they’ve learned to determine possible scenarios that led to the aircraft disaster. In the Aerial Robotics Virtual Lab, students can jump online anywhere in the world to design and build an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), then test its flight capa- bilities and analyze the results. We’ve now combined both labs into a Virtual Hub, a planning center students can enter to conduct Aerial Robotics Virtual Lab, crash lab or flight activities. Q : What comes next for Embry- Riddle Worldwide in the world of AR/VR? We have proposed expanding the Hub’s capabilities to encompass maintenance assurance, emergency response and opera- tions, air traffic control and other aspects of airport operations. These enhancements will offer applications for our business, aeronau- tics, safety, human factors and emergency management degrees and more. We want to continue introducing cutting-edge technol- ogy to our students. We want to expand their learning environment and bring Star Wars- like tech to life.

Virtual and augmented reality technologies are giving online students real-world experience BRINGING LEARNING TO LIFE


Imagine going through the wreckage of an airliner, looking for clues to determine what caused the accident. Only highly trained inves- tigators ever have a chance to take part in such situations. But thanks to the rapidly developing technology of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide Campus students can examine crashed aircraft in a simulated environ- ment, searching for clues from their computers, tablets, smartphones or AR goggles. Scott Burgess, associate professor in Worldwide’s College of Aeronautics, has been involved in Worldwide’s virtual reality labs since they began. His 34 years of aviation experience includes multiple flight ratings and developing the helicopter flight-training program at the university’s

Prescott Campus in Arizona. He now teaches aviation safety and sUAS (small unmanned aircraft systems) operations courses for Embry-Riddle Worldwide. Q : Where did the idea for virtual labs come from? Around five years ago, we were exploring virtual classroom concepts. Worldwide Associate Professor Katherine Moran wanted to explore the idea of a virtual crash lab. Our Daytona Beach and Prescott campuses have actual wreck- age that students can physically examine. Katherine wanted a way to address the academic aspects of accident investigation in plane crashes for Worldwide students that was as close to reality as possible.

Because of innovations like virtual labs for aerial robotics and aviation accident investigations, virtual classrooms and real-time online collaboration, Embry-Riddle Worldwide has been recognized as one of only three educational institutions globally included in the prestigious 2018 CIO 100, an annual award recognizing organizations around the world that exemplify the highest level of operational and strategic excellence in information technology. “It is extraordinarily rewarding to know we are providing students around the world with a realistic lab environment for both accident investigation and robotics,” says Becky Vasquez, Embry-Riddle’s vice president and chief information officer. “This brings anytime, anywhere learning to the next level and supports the mission of our Worldwide Campus in delivering accessible learning opportunities.” EXCELLING IN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY


FALL 2018


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