Virtual Construction Simulator: Improving Design and Construction Engineering Education with Virtual Reality

  • Messner, John (PI)
  • Horman, Michael J. (CoPI)
  • Riley, II, David R. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project will foster student's ability to visualize the built environment is a critical skill required in design and construction engineering education. Students in Civil and Architectural Engineering programs typically learn to analyze project designs and plan their construction by reviewing 2D CAD drawings and developing Critical Path Method (CPM) schedules. With recent advancements in computer display technology, it is now possible to place our students within a large-scale, immersive projection display that allows them to experience and experiment with a 3D, full-scale virtual prototype of a construction project. This advanced visual communication can significantly improve the ability of students to comprehend, learn, and gain experience with reviewing designs for constructability and planning the construction of complex building and infrastructure projects. The immersive models will also help students improve their visualization skills so that they will be more prepared to interpret and visualize 2D drawings in 3D.

The goal of this proposed project is to improve engineering education in building and infrastructure design and construction through the use of interactive construction project learning modules in an immersive virtual reality environment. The project team will develop a Virtual Construction Simulator (VCS) that will allow students to immerse themselves into a 3D construction project, perform a detailed analysis of the design, and develop a plan for constructing the project. The construction plan will include construction methods selection, activity sequencing, activity duration definition, temporary facility locations, and project schedule calculation. After the students complete their design analysis and construction planning exercise, they will be able to review the results and present them to their peers and instructors.

The use of the VCS will make an immediate impact on the quality of engineering education at Penn State in Architectural Engineering and Civil Engineering. The broad impacts of this project will be fourfold. First, it will enrich the education of engineers who design and construct infrastructure and building projects. This will improve the efficiency, safety and security of future building projects nationwide. Second, it will demonstrate the VCS and case study projects in a low cost VR display. These tools will be made available to other universities so that more students and faculty can use the learning modules developed in this proposed project and share new case studies developed from the project templates. Third, this project will add to the research on the pedagogical value of using active learning exercises in an immersed VR environment through a detailed assessment of the impact of selected case study projects on our learning objectives. Finally, the improved visualization capability development and engaging learning environment should improve the attraction and retention of top caliber students to engineering disciplines. This project will provide a model for future VR engineering education applications by clearly showing the educational value and preferred methods for applying these advanced visualization tools.

Effective start/end date12/1/0311/30/07


  • National Science Foundation: $300,000.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.