Virtual reality lab gives students in Columbus a new way to learn

COLUMBUS, Ind. – "I can actually make a blood vessel just by pulling the triggers,” said high school junior Ivan Lamb as he began pressing buttons on his virtual reality controller. Soon after that, he was reaching out into thin air attempting to grab a piece of DNA. "Even though you learn it on paper, going through the entire process of the different parts of the cell really help them understand the true parts of the cell."

Wearing 3D goggles, Lamb is exploring the inside of the human body through the virtual reality program "The Body." Lamb was the one who built this virtual reality lab inside a small classroom at Columbus Signature Academy New Tech High School. He believes this technology will help other students learn better in the classroom.

"This is going to be used for those kids that maybe aren't learning as well in the normal environment or they want to be challenged,” Lamb said.

Once they put on the 3D goggles, students are taken into a new virtual world, where they can explore cells, create art or even get some exercise with interactive games.

"We’re talking about a generation of kids who grew up with iPads in their hands, and then we expect them to come to high school and we throw books in their hands and say ‘here you go, learn,'" said math teacher Zach Schroeder. "That's almost like stepping backwards.”

Schroeder is the teacher in charge of the lab. Last spring during a field trip to the Cummins Tech Center, he saw the potential for virtual reality in the classroom.

"When I went there and got to do the virtual reality and saw the kids reactions to what the virtual reality brought, I was like 'man, they are so excited about this. How could we bring this to the classroom?'”

From history to biology, Schroeder says the possibilities are endless. Not only helping them learn in the classroom, but also preparing them for the future.

"If we can get them trained at this level at least somewhat in what virtual reality can do, then when they get there, they're already ahead of that curve," Schroeder said. "They’re that much farther advanced than others in the job market.”

The project was made possible by a $3,000 grant from the Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation.

Currently, the lab is in a temporary setup with hopes of moving it to a permanent location soon. Student Andrew Day is working on schematics to make that happen.