Date of Graduation

8-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Computer Science (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Computer Science & Computer Engineering

Advisor

Craig Thompson

Committee Member

Susan Gauch

Second Committee Member

Gordon Beavers

Abstract

The EAST (Environmental And Spatial Technology) Initiative is a non-profit educational organization that provides students in over two hundred schools in eight states with access to advanced computing technologies for the purpose of enabling students to develop technical skills early and to produce solutions to local community problems. Although many high-end technologies are available through EAST, they are desktop solutions that individual students use and there are none that enable students within a school or between schools to collaborate.

This thesis is a saga that documents the identification and removal of many roadblocks to introducing a 3D multi-user virtual simulation platform known as OpenSimulator into an EAST high school, Greenland High, located in Northwest Arkansas. The end result seemed compelling, simple and achievable -- with OpenSimulator, students from one or many EAST Labs would be able connect, chat, and work together within the same or nearby virtual areas to build models of (parts and aspects of) their communities. But getting to the point where students can begin to use this platform involved solving cost, safety, firewall, administrative, sustainability, and other puzzles. Most of this thesis is concerned with solving problems up to introducing OpenSimulator to Greenland -- more work is needed in understanding whether and how this kind of technology will benefit high school computing programs like EAST.

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