Kamiak Butte VR

Platform(s): 

Oculus Browser, Laptop, Mobile Device

Role(s):

Project Manager, UI/UX Designer, °360 Videographer, Curriculum Designer, Researcher

Background

Kamiak Butte VR is a project that I started as an undergraduate student in collaboration with a professor in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to distance learning. Kamiak Butte VR is an interactive experience that enables students virtually explore and learn about Kamiak Butte County Park in 360° view. 

The goal of the project was to provide undergraduate students in a natural resource ecology course at Washington State University with a virtual field trip to replace and supplement the in-person field trip to support students abilities to learn about the Natural Resources found at Kamiak Butte. In the experience, users can interact with various forms of media including seasonal change 360° videos, aerial 360° imagery,  wildlife imagery, plant imagery, field instruction. 

In the past two years as a graduate student, I have worked alongside a multidisciplinary team of professors, undergraduate students, and graduate students to develop various aspects of the project. My project team was fortunate to win two technology grants for the project and raised $44,550 to continue to develop and improve Kamiak Butte VR.

Throughout this time, I engaged in an iterative design process to continue to improve the software application. The software was implemented in the Natural Resource Ecology course curriculum for six semesters of instruction across a three year period. Over 500 students have used the software as apart of their classroom activities and the software is still in use today by the course alongside the physical field trip to Kamiak Butte.

My master’s thesis was focused on the application of Kamiak Butte VR alongside the physical field trip in the Natural Resource Ecology course. The results from the research study showed students valued the hybrid field trip and believed the activities supported their ability to learn about the ecology at Kamiak Butte. Stay tuned for the official publication of my thesis later in 2023.  

A notable aspect of this project was the Digital Technology and Culture at Washington State University awarded me with the Distinguished Scholar in 2020 for my work on the Kamiak Butte VR project.

User Interface created in 2020
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User Interface created in 2021
User Interface created in 2022.

Screen Shots

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Kamiak Butte VR

App to Support Virtual Placed-Based Learning of a rural area County park in Eastern Washington. 

Overview

I started the Kamiak Butte VR project in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to distance learning for an undergraduate Ecology course at Washington State University.
 
Using virtual reality, computers, and mobile devices this project enables students to engage in a 360° virtual exploration and learning experience of Kamiak Butte County Park. The project was used to replace the physical field trip and is now used as supplemental support for the course. 

Timeline

August 2020 – Spring 2023 

Deliverables

VR Application, WebGL App

Contributions

Product Designer, Researcher, 360 Photogragher 

VR User Interface Design to Promote Field Studies

My master’s thesis focused on the use of the Kamiak Butte VR alongside the physical field trip in the Natural Resource Ecology course.

Design Process Grounded in User Research & Learning Theories

The design process began with extensive user research, encompassing surveys, interviews, and usability testing. This approach allowed me to gain deep insights into the needs, preferences, and behaviors of the target audience. By understanding the expectations and pain points of users, I could tailor the virtual exploration of Kamiak Butte County Park to meet their specific requirements.

Prototypes & Iterative Design

Over a span of four years, I implemented several iterative designs for students in the Natural Resource Ecology course. The images below visually depict the evolution of my design iterations for this project. These pictures truly illustrate my growth as an interaction designer over the years.

2020 Design

2021 Design

2022 Design

2023 Design

User Feedback Designs

I collected feedback from over 150+ students through surveys and interviews. This information was employed iteratively in the design process of the project.

Information Architecture & Level Design

Originally, I implemented a user interface with six buttons, each starting a different tour. However, user feedback revealed navigation challenges, particularly difficulty in finding scenes within a tour. To address this, I redesigned the UI, incorporating multiple tabs to simplify scene selection within each tour.

  • “My biggest problem was trying to find a section of one scene across the entire site”

Label Improvments

Maybe students expressed that better labels on the real world UI componets would improve their  navigation in the experience in the tour, therefore I added labels under hotspot icons to improve the users experience.  

  • “Everything is amazing, only thing I would add it video/picture titles before you click on the video.”

3D Map Interactions

Initially, the 3D visitor center featured a non-interactive topographic map for aesthetics. Responding to student feedback, I added interactive features to the 3D map, allowing users to explore data overlays and location markers.

  • “I think a way to improve the hybrid field trip experience is the lobby that you first access. It would be cool if you could move and see the topography of Kamiak Butte from that little display up close.”

Seasonal Change

The Seasonal Change componet of the project was orgnially my idea and alot of students expressed their apperication for this aspect of the tour. Therefore, I worked to create improve the UI to change seasons. 

  • “The favorite part of the virtual field trip was being able to see seasonal changes without having to wait for it to happen in real life.”

A New way to Discorver & Learn about the Natural World

Kamiak Butte VR is a one of a kind project which promotes place-based learning in a rural area in Washington State.

Collaberation & Technology

I’m grateful for 50+ Washington State University students and faculty who volunteered to work on the Kamiak Butte VR project. We secured two grants totaling $45,000 to support the development of the project.

Results

Kamiak Butte VR has been successfully integrated into the curriculum of the Natural Resource Ecology course for six consecutive semesters spanning a three-year period. With over 500 students actively engaging with the software as a vital component of their classroom activities, it remains an integral part of the course, complementing the traditional physical field trip to Kamiak Butte.

  • This hybrid combination completely blew my mind! During the break I spent hours showing my family this virtual site. Everyone was excited to see the animals, the snow on the months with the panoramic views.
  • The effort and time put into this website are astonishing, it is extremely organized and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. 

Seattle Pops

Web Design

Overview

Seattle Pops, a beloved popsicle store located in Seattle, Washington, played a significant role in my undergraduate journey. Taking on the roles of WordPress Developer, UI/UX Designer, and Information Architect, I spearheaded a transformative redesign of their website during the Fall of 2019 as part of the Multimedia Authoring course at Washington State University.

Timeline

September 2019 – December 2019

Deliverables

Website UI, Online Store, New Menu, 

Contributions

Website Design, Protyopes

Screenshots

The project’s foundation lay in the creation of detailed prototypes and wireframes. 

Style Sheet

Seattle Pops logo colors contain fun bright colors. It was really cool to integrate thier colors throughout the website to make elements pop!  Careful consideration was given to typography, color schemes, and imagery to evoke a sense of the Seattle Pops experience. The result was a visually captivating platform that resonated with the brand’s identity and captivated users.

Typograghy

ABC Diatype

Mint

Mint

Mint

Protoypes

The project’s foundation lay in the creation of detailed prototypes and wireframes. These served as the blueprint for the website’s structure and functionality.

Information Architecture

Restructing the information on the seattle pops website was critical in 

A pivotal aspect of the redesign was the strategic restructuring of the website’s information architecture. This involved reimagining the menu structure, streamlining content categorization, and optimizing the flow of information. The goal was to create an intuitive and seamless browsing experience for visitors.

Old

Flavors

Locations

Catering

Our Story

Contact Us

Online Shop

New

Home 

Menu 

Locations 

Order Online 

Catering

Giving Back 

 

Old with the New

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Old Website

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New Website

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Development Pictures

Throughout the project, collaboration was at the forefront of our approach. Engaging with the Seattle Pops team, we captured moments that exemplified the synergy and dedication poured into the redesign. These candid snapshots serve as a testament to the collaborative spirit that fueled the project’s success.

Results & Reflection

The culmination of our efforts was met with resounding approval from the owner of Seattle Pops, who seamlessly integrated the redesigned website into their hosting service. This not only elevated the online presence of Seattle Pops but also garnered recognition from the Digital Technology and Culture program at WSU.

“which recognizes students who explores the principles of web design, coding, information architecture, and usability in a global cultural context”

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