National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center


GRUVE (Glenn’s Reconfigurable User-interface Virtual-reality Environment) is a lab that allows researchers to visualize and manipulate a cloud of data points in a virtual 3D world. GRUVE also allows researchers to import 3D models and view as well as handle these models in the virtual world, giving them access to an environment that cannot be replicated on a 2D screen. While still under intensive yet rapid development, the possibilities of the outcomes from this lab are endless; modeling full scale 3D models of complex geometries such as all the components to a car to a full size model of a commercial airliner while being able to look at each part in detail and see how all the sub-systems come together to form the whole system. A lot of improvement needs to be done for a system like GRUVE to be used commercial for full-scale design but a fully functional virtual reality environment such as GRUVE could improve the design process immensely.

GRUVE also has another side to the lab, a more educational and fun side. Researchers and engineers are trying to connect with local high school students to encourage them to pursue an education in science and engineering. Several years ago, Glenn brought in local high school students on a summer program and had them explore simple robotics and coding using the LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit. One of the students was very talented and created a software package that allowed users to control a robot, in this instance a model of the Mars rover, over the internet via a website. While this website allows only specific users to control the robot, anyone can see the live camera feed from the robot during operation. Projects like this really engage students to learn more about engineering and the vast possibilities of design and innovation that can be accomplished if they pursue an educational path that involves science and engineering.

Overall, with the two parts of the lab, GRUVE has shown us the advanced capabilities of engineering research in developing a state of the art 3D virtual reality environment while reaching out to the local community and to young potential engineers to encourage them to learn more about science, design, and engineering.