Kamiak Butte VR

I developed Kamiak Butte VR project in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to distance learning to provide a virtual field trip for an undergraduate Ecology course at Washington State University in collaberation with Whitman County Parks & Recreation.

Position

Product Design & Research

Timeline

August 2020 – Spring 2023

Team

50+ Students, Faculty, & Staff

The Problem

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted traditional education, necessitating the elimination of physical field trips for students—an unexpected challenge amid the shift to online learning. Another predicament was the availability of virtual field trips, which, though existent, often comprised dull, non-interactive 2D videos.

This compounded the need for a more engaging and immersive educational alternative, giving rise to the development of Kamiak Butte VR.

COVID-19 & Distance Learning

Removal of Physical Field Trips

Boring Virtual Field Trips

Project Goals

The Kamiak Butte VR project had three primary goals. First, it aimed to create a compelling virtual field trip experience to compensate for the absence of physical trips during the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, the project successfully secured grants totaling $44,550 to overcome financial constraints.

Lastly, as part of a master’s thesis, it sought to formulate research questions exploring user experiences and the application of learning theories within virtual and physical environments.

Produce Virtual Field Trip

Raise Funds

Research & Iterative Design

Design Process

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 in 3D spaces over the years.

Various Iterative Designs 

Challenges 

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”

Challenges 

Label Improvements

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.”

Seasonal Change User Interface

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.”

Final Designs

View some image captures of the final designs for the Kamiak Butte Project! 

Impact

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.

Below showcases qualitative and quantative data I collected for my master thesis. An indepth anayslis on these responses can be found in my thesis publication. 

As a student in this course, how did you value your access to the hybrid field trip: both virtual and live in-person,to learn about ecology in this class?

No Data Found

How would you describe your interactions on the Kamiak Butt VR?

No Data Found

Spring 2022 Student

My favorite part of the Virtual field trip was the change in scenery it provided from just the repetitive zoom classroom.

Fall 2020 Student

This hybrid combination completely blew my mind! During the break I spent hours showing my family this virtual site.

Spring 2023 Student

The effort and time put into this website are astonishing, it is extremely organized and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Outcomes

The project yielded significant outcomes, including the prestigious recognition of winning the Distinguished Scholar Award at Washington State University for my contributions. Furthermore, the research conducted resulted in the production of two peer-reviewed publications, solidifying the impact and academic significance of the Kamiak Butte VR project.

Project Development Photos

Throughout the project development, both students and faculty generously volunteered their time, bringing diverse skills to the table.

From getting hands-on with field equipment to supporting the software design process, everyone pitched in. We even orchestrated drone flights to capture Kamiak Butte from exciting angles. These snapshots highlight the teamwork and dedication that fueled the creation of Kamiak Butte VR, making it a truly collaborative effort. Check out these behind-the-scenes moments that capture the essence of our journey.

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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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