June 02, 2022
Going 3D: Students explore high tech learning in Verizon Immersive Media Labs
STEM-focused labs feature 3D printers, virtual reality headsets, and fast computers
It’s a real-world challenge that employees in the gaming industry face: “Create a virtual reality video game.” But in Holabird Academy’s Verizon Immersive Media Lab, it’s just one of many high-tech, hands-on projects engaging students in new technologies.
Developing a game is the kind of project students dream of having, and their enthusiasm is clear as they get to work - coding, programming, building worlds and fun gaming experiences. Want to play? Check out one of the games, made by Holabird Academy 6th grader Carlos Torres-Anguiano, called The No Jumping Game!
Projects like this are possible through grants from Verizon Innovative Learning, supporting four City Schools in creating Immersive Media Labs: Baltimore Design School, Holabird Academy, Graceland Park Elementary/Middle School, and Walter P Carter Elementary/Middle School. The grants funding these labs supplement the $1.6M grants each school received in 2020 from Verizon to enhance and expand interest, engagement, and performance in STEM-related learning.
Installed over the last year, the labs feature 3D printers, virtual reality headsets, 360-degree cameras, phones for VR use, computers, and sphero robots - all infusing learning with problem solving, hands-on creation, and STEM experiences. Every 6th through 8th grade student at those schools has daily access to the labs. The grants also provide professional development for educators, helping them leverage the lab’s resources in their teaching.
“My students are loving the lab, and they are picking up skills incredibly quickly,” remarked Andy Rodgers, Engineering and Immersive Media Teacher at Holabird Academy. “It’s so engaging for students to create something over several days that they can then see, use and touch while building important skills for the future.”
Thanks to the labs’ equipment, those skills range from programming and coding to problem solving and engineering. For example, Mr. Rodgers recently challenged students to design and 3D-print small boats. The game: whichever student’s boat held the most weight was the winner! The project gave students flexibility to work within constraints and build what they imagined while using friendly competition to reinforce science principles of buoyancy, volume, and density.
Another time, students used 360-degree cameras to create virtual reality renderings of real-world environments. Here is a 3D rendering of Holabird Academy by 7th grader Katherine Espinoza-Cruz. The project combined coding with photography and environmental analysis.
Immersive Learning Labs are transforming what’s possible with classroom learning. Thanks to virtual reality capabilities, educators teaching students about different parts of the world can “bring” students there. Students put on a VR-headset and are standing at the edge of volcanoes in science class, peering off the top of the world’s tallest waterfall, or exploring cities around the world in social studies class.
As Mr. Rodgers puts it, “technology is always changing very fast, but with the Immersive Media Lab, we’re able to prepare students for that rapidly changing future. If their enthusiasm, interest, and talent is any indication, I think they have a knack for it.”
To learn more about the Verizon Immersive Learning Labs, visit https://verizon.digitalpromise.org/. To learn more about this or other computer science and STEM opportunities, reach out to Stacey Davis in the Office of Teaching and Learning.