Special thank you to the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation for funding the refresh of nearly 50 new laptops in our Innovation Hubs at Janie’s Garden and Laurel Civic Association. The new computers are faster and more efficient allowing students to access all their online school-work and are compatible with the innovative technology courses being offered in these locations including 3D printing, robotics, and virtual reality.

A generous AT&T STEM@Work grant, received through Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, allowed us to fund a virtual reality program at Laurel Civic Association. Thanks to Mr. John and Laurel Civic Association for sharing the impact of the virtual reality program below. 

Laurel Civic Association Inc (LCA) would like to thank the Education Foundation for the purchase of its Virtual Reality System and the opportunity to provide the Teen Empowerment Program (TEP) this state of the art technical education moment.

In the initial plan there were to be up to 40 teens using the Oculus Rift to learn to drive virtually using an App called City Car Driving. A realistic car driving simulator, which help you master the basic skills of car driving in various traffic conditions. We more than doubled the number of youth using the Oculus Rift throughout the summer by having the 40 teens initially indicated and included an additional 53 youth involved in the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and in the LCA Earning-By-Learning Summer Reading event sponsored by the Patterson Foundation.

The teens were exposed to real-life in real-time experiences that will stay with them for a lifetime. Each teen during the first week of the seven-week program took the actual written driving test. In addition to that they received weekly live presentations from various entities like the County Tax Collectors Office Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Matthew Curry Ford, AAA Insurance and Sarasota Sherriff Department on the responsibilities of purchasing, maintaining, and driving their first vehicle. Each presentation was at-least 2 hours.

Taking into consideration sanitation, LCA ordered each teen their own individual mask and earphone covers to be used for the duration of the seven-week program. One-by-one the teens took turn enjoying the opportunity to virtually drive in what could be described as, as real a driving experience one could get short of sitting behind the wheel of a real vehicle.

Maddie’s drive: A confident teen who even received her drivers permit before the program ended

Layne’s drive: A teen whose over confidence wasn’t missed by his peers

Mya’s drive: A teen filled with fear having never been behind the wheel of a car before

The outcomes for working with the virtual reality system were to expose the teens to real-life situations in real-time that involves one of the first major decisions of their lives, virtually purchasing, driving and maintaining their first vehicle. Mission Accomplished!

The teens will actually have the opportunity to take the written drivers test to measure their knowledge and skills learned using the V/R System. Mission Accomplished!

The teens will learn to recognize and respond to street signs. Mission Accomplished!

Virtual Reality definitely has a place as a tool in the classroom. It provides another avenue to explore and engage those that struggle. One that goes beyond the classroom environment of teaching by seeing, hearing, or doing. Virtual Reality drops the student into an immersive world where they can watch and experience things in a manner that triggers their feelings making the learning process one that they will remember and not just memorize.