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02 April, 2019 Academic

Learning through technology: introducing the School’s new Virtual Reality space

St Michael’s recently completed the installation of the School’s first dedicated Virtual Reality (VR) space, funded by a grant from the Parent Community Association (PCA).

Located in the Gipson Commons, this space was developed as St Michel’s existing VR offering was in high demand from all areas of the School, including design technology, art, humanities, science, geography and transdisciplinary learning in the junior years.

Virtual Reality (VR) is an increasing presence in commercial, artistic, scientific and research environments. It is also a unique tool in creating simulation environments for educational and training purposes.Deputy Head of the School, Mr Gerard Houlihan

“It is important that schools provide opportunities for students and teachers to embrace VR technology and develop the necessary skills, knowledge and interest to further their capacity in this field,” said Deputy Head of the School, Mr Gerard Houlihan.

Mr Houlihan submitted a proposal to the PCA for a grant of $7,500 to fund a dedicated VR space to further the School’s capacity in VR, for the benefit of students across the School.

“Through various PCA led fundraising initiatives such as second-hand uniform sales, events and School functions, the PCA is able to offer grants to the School,” said PCA President, Mr Mark McGahan. “PCA grants facilitate the fulfilment of a need within the School that will impact a large number of students and the wider School community. We offered this particular grant because the VR equipment would benefit students from Years 1-10.”

Learning through technology: introducing the School’s new Virtual Reality space Student experiencing VR in the dedicated VR space

The creation of the VR space was facilitated by St Michael’s Learning Platforms Administrator, Mr Edward Wong who involved a number of students in the project.

“I firmly believe in giving students the opportunity to be involved in the integration of new technologies in the School,” said Mr Wong.

“Year 9 students Tim and Liam were given the responsibility of building the brand new computer that is now used in the VR space,” he said. “They were given a budget of $5,000 and with my support they chose which parts to order and when they arrived they put the computer together.”

“In addition to the new computer, the School now has a wireless adaptor and VR headset from HTC VIVE so students are able to experience VR untethered,”  said Mr Wong.

 

Learning through technology: introducing the School’s new Virtual Reality space The artwork on the glass windows looking into the VR space was designed by Year 11 student Monique

In Term 4 last year, Mr Wong discussed the project with Year 9 students Tim and Liam who were both eager to take on the challenge of building the computer.

“Both Tim and I were excited to get started with choosing parts for the computer,” said Liam.

“The most important part of a VR computer is the graphics card, and for this, we went for the best on the market, the Zotac Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, which costs $2,500,” he said. “At the time I never thought I would have the chance to even hold an RTX 2080 Ti.”

  • Learning through technology: introducing the School’s new Virtual Reality space
  • Learning through technology: introducing the School’s new Virtual Reality space

When the parts arrived we were excited and determined to put the computer together,” said Liam. “We couldn’t believe it, once we put all the pieces together in the case, added the graphics card, and turned the computer on, it actually worked,” he said.

I could not help but admire the engagement and skill of our students, they are the first generation in history to be exploring a new medium and the nexus between our two and three-dimensional worlds.Deputy Head of the School, Mr Gerard Houlihan

St Michael’s now has two complete VR sets, enabling more students from across the School to gain hands-on experience with this technology. We look forward to realising new and exciting learning opportunities across the curriculum via the integration of VR, and seeing our students continue to develop their skills and knowledge with the technology.