Penn State University engineering students in the Design Analysis Technology Advancement Laboratory are using the popular Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset to enhance online learning.
The research was funded by the Center for Online Innovation in Learning Research Initiation Grant.
According to assistant professor of engineering design and industrial engineering Conrad Tucker, “online learning gives us huge opportunities in higher education. You can connect with more diverse people across greater distances. Online courses also limit you in some ways — there’s little immersive or tactile interaction, and sometimes it’s hard for students to engage with the material. IVR (immersive virtual reality) systems are a potential solution to that problem.”
The students, under the guidance of Tucker, created a demo of a virtual classroom with chairs, desks and a chalkboard. In addition to the headset, there is a glove that allows students to pick up, assemble and take apart virtual objects. In the case of the demo, a coffee pot was the subject.
“Moving forward, we’d love to work with students in other countries. Oculus Rift and other similar technologies allow you to sync your devices with others regardless of location and work on the same project. You can always Skype with people around the world, but you don’t get the same experience,” Tucker explains.
There are no limits to virtual reality in the classroom. Tucker is a strong advocate and believer that virtual reality is the future to online learning.
Astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a commencement speech at the University of Massachusetts Amherst last week. Tyson has risen to the forefront of the science world promoting, advocating and recruiting young minds into a new world that appreciates science, technology, engineering and mathematics. His speech was one of the best this year because he was genuinely honest about the world graduates are going into.
Notes on the American Dream
“It is OK to encourage others to pull themselves up by the bootstraps … just remember that some people have no boots.”
For almost a decade, the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees awarded to Black males has not increased nationwide.
So Georgia Tech put together a national panel May 5 in Washington, D.C., to discuss the issue and provide solutions to increase the graduation rates of Black men in STEM fields. The panel was led by Gary May, dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech. In fact, the majority of the panel was made up of Black men working in STEM.
According to Georgia Institute Technology News, “joining May on the panel were: Rodney Adkins, former senior vice president of IBM and a Georgia Tech alumnus; Reginald DesRoches, Karen and John Huff School Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech; Jeremy Feaster, Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at Stanford University; Darryll Pines, dean of the Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland; Guy Primus, co-founder and chief operating officer of The Virtual Reality Company; Karl Reid, executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers; Cedric Stallworth, assistant dean for outreach, enrollment and community for the College of Computing at Georgia Tech; John Silvanus Wilson Jr., president of Morehouse College; and Kyle Woumn, computer science major at Georgia Tech.”
The panel discussed reasons why many Black males fall behind in STEM fields. The panelists discussed how they succeeded and what solutions could help increase numbers. They also emphasized the need for mentors, hands-on STEM programs in K-12 programs to get young people interested, and they wanted corporations and parents to get involved.
Blerds has covered STEM, discussed solutions for the issues and provided examples of successful Black men and women of all ages in STEM.
Georgia Tech is one example of Black people helping Black people to expand STEM careers to younger people. It is quite possible other institutions of higher learning will discuss and take action to include more Black males in STEM.
Getting into college can be a difficult and arduous journey. However, getting in is just the tip of the iceberg. Most people should know that studying is important and procrastination is a problem. Staying in and getting the most out of your education is a process in of itself. There are resources that most students don’t know about. Here are a few tips to ease the burden of getting a college education.
Learn and Harness Skills Outside of the Classroom
College will not teach you everything about life and success. You have to take the initiative and enhance skills unrelated to your major. If you like to cook, buy cookbooks. If you like photography, join your school’s photography club or start one. If you like art, buy a sketchbook and watch popular art tutorials on YouTube. Just learn more.
After your sophomore year, you should know what you want to do by this point. This is the time to get an internship and a few job-shadowing experiences. Internships give you the opportunity to test the waters and gain experiences at top companies and smaller ones, too. Avoid unpaid internships. There are many paid internships that start at minimum wage and go up. If you do get an unpaid internship, make sure you can get college credit for that work. That means one less class you have to pay for. Speak to your counselors for more information.