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"zSpace Bus" takes students on a virtual reality field trip
Software provides highschoolers an opportunity for “fearless learning”

By Eduardo Barraza
September 2, 2016

(Gilbert, Arizona) –– Three hundred students from two Gilbert Public Schools high schools had a hands-on opportunity to use a revolutionary virtual reality software as part of a zSpace Bus visit to the Valley.

Students from Desert Ridge High School and Campo Verde High School were in awe as they had a chance to try the innovative software inside the bus, which made a stop at both campuses on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The zSpace Bus doesn’t look as impressive on the outside, but inside it is equipped with 11 workstations where abstract objects become alive and students are taken into a kind of virtual reality field trip by simply wearing a special pair of glasses.

“zSpace is a virtual reality desktop,” said Thessa Monaco, Sales Director at zSpace, Inc., who also serves as an instructor during the software demonstrations. “It’s a different way of engaging and immersing the kids into learning by giving them a virtual reality experience.”

Monaco said this virtual reality learning experience increases student engagement through fearless learning.

Students participated based on their enrollment in classes like Engineering Design and Development, Biomedical Innovation, Digital Electronics and Sports Medicine, among others.

According to Douglas Daley, Director of Career and Technical Education, Gilbert Public Schools was selected for the visit to allow high school students experience a virtual reality session in a hands-on setting.

“As technology continues to change, this will provide students the opportunity to see advancements that have been made and innovation,” said Daley.

Daley said the zSpacebus visit allowed Gilbert Public Schools to view and learn more about ways to potentially integrate virtual reality into the instruction, specifically in the areas of engineering and human anatomy.

Rachel Higgins, a sophomore at Desert Ridge High School, was among the students who got their hands-on experience withzSpace. Higgins wants to pursue a career in engineering, so the virtual reality software was of particular interest to her.

“It’s really interesting. We can dissect animals, kind of what we did in biology, but we can get different views and actually take it apart completely,” said Higgins after using the zSpace software.

The 10th-grader is currently taking an engineering class at Desert Ridge in Mr. Johnson’s class. Johnson, who personally saw his students using zSpace, thinks the software can benefit his class.

“It’s showing students things that they might not be able to see,” said Johnson. “I saw there some mechanical stuff, so you can tear down an engine and look at the different pieces there, and see how things work.”

Johnson is not only hopeful that engineering classes like the one he teaches to approximately 350 Desert High students can benefit from the zSpace program, but that more female students will eventually pursue a career in engineering.

Higgins thinks that the fact that a lot more male students are enrolled in engineering classes at the high-school level should not be a discouraging factor for other girls.

“Don’t let that stop you. I understand that there are a lot more guys than girls, but that shouldn’t be the reason why you don’t want to do it,” said Higgins smiling. “If you want to be an engineer, be one.”

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