The Virtual Sandbox: An Approach to Introduce Principles of Granular Flow Physics into the Classroom

Erich Reichel, Stefan Radl, Jakob Dominik Redlinger-Pohn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In these lectures students (aged 8–18 years) perform experiments with dry and wet sand. Most importantly, students first encounter contradictory results due to the peculiar nature of flowing granular matter. For example, students measure the density of wet sand as a function of the water content. They also proof the stability of “sandcastles” made of wet sand samples. This ultimately leads to the finding that tiny liquid bridges between the particles must be responsible for this behavior. These findings also support the next step: the students can compare their results with simulations of these experiments. They get an idea of how to simulate such experiments with computer algorithms. The virtual sandbox is the final step used to illustrate the concept of our project: it is a device which shows the combination of real-world experiments and real-time computer simulations. In this way, students can understand the principles behind tools used in modern research and development efforts, specifically in the context of the buzzword “industry 4.0”. The feedback of the students indicates significant interest for this topic and documents student gain of knowledge and competences.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConcepts, Strategies and Models to Enhance Physics Teaching and Learning
PublisherSpringer Nature
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2019


  • particle engineering
  • modelling
  • simulation
  • Educational games, adaptation, competences, motivation, reflection support

Fields of Expertise

  • Mobility & Production

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