North Carolina School Adds VR Headset System for STEAM Education

A North Carolina school has added a virtual reality system to its curriculum. Oakboro Choice Stem School, in the Stanly County Schools system, purchased an HTC Vive headset with two remote controls and a gaming computer. The cost, $1,600, according to local reporting, was $1,600, covered by a grant from the local Rotary Club.

The project was undertaken by video game lover and STEM coach, Jennifer Snyder, who saw the gear in use at the University of North Carolina Charlotte and added it to her wish list. As Snyder told the newspaper, she holds workshops each day to teach students how to use the VR gear, along with the other technology in her classroom, including robots and a 3D printer. Snyder runs several robotics clubs at the school, including one for underwater robotics, and promotes Hour of Code each year.

Uses for the VR gear specifically include transporting students into the human body, to space, through the ocean, to historic sites (including the trenches of WWI in France and the pyramids of Egypt). Some of the students are creating their own VR spaces; and Snyder is hoping to add a greenscreen to enable her young coders to develop content for lessons that help the subjects "come alive rather than [forcing students to read] about it on some static piece of paper."

Said one student, an eighth grader who helps the younger kids work with the equipment in the room, "You can put on a headset and experience something with your eyes that a lot of people our age can't experience."

Next up, Snyder told Reporter Chris Miller: a slightly less innovative piece of technology: a sewing machine. Apparently, many of her students want to learn how to sew.

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.