LiveGraphics3D is a non-commercial Java 1.1 applet that enables users to put almost any three-dimensional graphics computed by Mathematica directly onto an HTML page. It can then be viewed and interactively rotated without any additional software. LiveGraphics3D also shows animations and supports parametrized graphics.
To facilitate visualization of 3D objects by allowing interactive experimentation with existing objects or custom creation of new objects.
Target Student Population:
Students in any course that would benefit from being able to see, and rotate, 3D objects (e.g., geometry, multivariable calculus, topology, chemistry, physics).
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Comfort with using a computer mouse and a web browser to manipulate a Java applets. No prerequisites to simply view examples; familiarity with Mathematica to create your own examples.
Type of Material:
Examples can be viewed for student enrichment purposes. Creation of new examples could be useful as a student project or for faculty use.
Users must produce (or find) graphics generated by Mathematica (www.wolfram.com). No knowledge of Java is required, but users might need to install a JAR file (installation instructions are provided on the LiveGraphics3D website).
Evaluation and Observation
At the new user level, as a way to view existing examples, this applet is effective, easy to use and offers powerful visualization experiences for students at all levels. At a more advanced user level it also provides a simple, powerful tool suitable for student projects or for individual faculty use. A variety of already made examples includes basic graphics such as butterfly and Borromean rings, graphics with hyperlinks such as a flock of birds, animations and sound such as a New Year explosion, and parametrized graphics such as a Spirograph.
For those interested in creating their own examples, LiveGraphics3D can be downloaded and there are tutorials on the appropriate use of Mathematica and links to other pages that incorporate LiveGraphics3D.
Users who do not know Mathematica are limited to the graphics generated by other users.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
This applet offers powerful opportunities to improve students abilities to visualize 3D objects at all levels of mathematics and in courses such as chemistry and physics. The built-in examples are visually appealing. It also offers the ability to create material to use in your own web pages
The restriction to Mathematica graphics is limiting.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The instructions provided on the website are detailed, clear, and indicate an awareness of issues that users might face. Documentation, examples, links and the ability to directly contact the author are included. The documentation section includes guides to user interface, installation and production of graphics. The homepage includes a latest news section.
Again, users who do not know Mathematica are at an initial disadvantage in terms of creating new material.
Other Issues and Comments:
This applet provides a wonderful enhancement to the standard three dimensional calculus course. Students at all levels have a hard time thinking in three dimensions. While Mathematica itself (and other such software) offers the ability to rotate 3D graphics, it takes time to teach students how use Mathematica. This applet allows students to inspect 3D objects from the comfort of a web browser without first having to learn Mathematica. An instructor can choose from a variety of examples offered at the website and/or create his/her own if he/she knows how to generate graphics using Mathematica. Use of this applet involves some planning: graphics must be generated using Mathematica, then run through the applet for display on a webpage.