Based on a design concept and code provided by the U.C. Davis W.M. Keck Center for Active Visualization in the Earth Sciences, the Riverdale Country School faculty and staff built an augmented reality sandbox to create dynamic lessons in math, geography, and earth science.

The device is comprised of:
• A wooden sandbox structure built by the maintenance department featuring a lip and catch drawers to prevent sand spills, and a shelf for the computer and supplies
• A steel frame that attaches to the sandbox and holds the camera and projector above the surface
• A computer and high-performance graphics card
• A short-throw projector that can display full-size images at close range
• A Microsoft Kinect 3D camera, which senses the topography of the sand and sends data back to the computer to show contour lines, colors, and virtual water on the sand
• Play sand that is compliant with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

For a kindergarten class studying the nearby Hudson River, the augmented reality sandbox provided a dramatic demonstration of how rivers are made. Using their hands, the children created hills and valleys. The computer projected a contour map that showed variations in elevation. When the rains came, the water flowed down from the higher elevations. The children oohed with delight. Watch video.