Virtual Reality

zSpace VR STEM Lab Immerses Middle School Students into Science

A middle school in East San Jose has been using a desktop virtual reality platform to explore science topics. Mathson Institute of Technology recently finished its first year of working with zSpace STEM lab, a virtual reality setup that immerses students into the topic they're studying.

The system includes student virtual reality stations and a teacher station, tablet-like devices that plug into regular computers via USB cables. Each station includes an interactive stylus and science, technology, engineering and math software.

Students wear 3D tracking glasses to tell the system where the users' eyes are in order to present virtual-holographic images that can then be "lifted" from the screen and manipulated with the stylus within a "tracking zone."
Students at Mathson Institute of Technology have been using zSpace to explore STEM concepts.

A zSpace activities center on the company's education Web site includes curricula for earth and space science, life science, physical science and social studies.

Educators at Mathson say they are particularly drawn to the multi-language aspects of the software. At the district where the school is located, Alum Rock Union Elementary, three-quarters of students speak a language other than English at home.

"Working with zSpace in the classroom makes it easier to address each student's needs," said Teacher Victor Guendulain Velasco in a prepared statement. "They can work at their own pace, in their own language, and understand and explain concepts in their own words."

In his classroom, students team up at the desktops to perform tasks, such as exploring a volcano or experimenting with zero gravity.

Mathson Principal Oscar Leon added that he believes zSpace could help his students become more interested in studying technology and science.

Other school systems that have tried out the zSpace system include the Los Altos School District and Woodside Elementary School District, also in California, as well as Brownsville Independent School District in Texas.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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