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  1. Engineering education aims to create a learning environment capable of developing vital engineering skill sets, preparing students to enter the workforce and succeed as future leaders. With all the rapid technological advancements, new engineering challenges continuously emerge, impeding the development of engineering skills. This insufficiency in developing the required skills resulted in high regression rates in students’ GPAs, resulting in industries reporting graduates’ unsatisfactory performance. From a pedagogical perspective, this problem is highly correlated with traditional learning methods that are inadequate for engaging students and improving their learning experience when adopted alone. Accordingly, educators have incorporated new learning methodologies to address the pre-defined problem and enhance the students’ learning experience. However, many of the currently adopted teaching methods still lack the potential to expose students to practical examples, and they are inefficient among engineering students, who tend to be active learners and prefer to use a variety of senses. To address this, our research team proposes integrating the technology of virtual reality (VR) into the laboratory work of engineering technology courses to improve the students’ learning experience and engagement. VR technology, an immersive high-tech media, was adopted to develop an interactive teaching module on hydraulic gripper designs in a VR construction-like environment. The module aims to expose engineering technology students to real-life applications by providing a more visceral experience than screen-based media through the generation of fully computer-simulated environments in which everything is digitized. This work presents the development and implementation of the VR construction lab module and the corresponding gripper designs. The virtual gripper models are developed using Oculus Virtual Reality (OVR) Metrics Tool for Unity, a Steam VR Overlay utility created to make visualizing the desktop in a VR setting simple and intuitive. The execution of the module comprises building the VR environment, designing and importing the gripper models, and creating a user-interface VR environment to visualize and interact with the model (gripper assembly/mechanism testing). Besides the visualization, manipulation, and interaction, the developed VR system allows for additional features like displaying technical information, guiding students throughout the assembly process, and other specialized options. Thus, the developed interactive VR module will serve as a perpetual mutable platform that can be readily adjusted to allow future add-ons to address future educational opportunities. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 25, 2024