Collinsville senior Jaige Longshore stood almost speechless as he watched a T-Rex charge toward him.
Longshore came face-to-face with the massive carnivore behind the sights of the Oculus Rift S, an advanced PC-powered VR gaming system, in the high school’s new virtual reality lab.
“It was a T-Rex inside of this of this museum … it just came up to me and he walked over me,” he said. “Just everything seems so real.”
Longshore joined fellow classmate Hope Wolf, also a senior, during a recent demonstration in the lab, where they were given a chance to experience the high-tech gadgets firsthand.
“It was cool,” Wolf said, who also had her own encounter with a dinosaur. “I didn’t want to walk that close because I thought it was going to get me … like you were actually there.”
Collinsville Public Schools’ $60,000 VR lab is new to the high school this year and was built in conjunction with a band performance space and an agriculture greenhouse and facility as part of a $6.6 million school bond that voters passed in 2018.
The VR lab features several workstations and equipment, including a 3D/4K projector, Oculus and HTC Vive headsets with designated play areas, a 3D printer, a zSpace computer and more, that students can use for a variety of educational purposes.
Beth Hamby, teaching assistant and curator of the lab’s resources, said she enjoys bringing learning to life for students looking to gain more insight into subjects like world history and biology beyond what a textbook can provide.
“It’s kind of like the library in a sense that the teachers will bring their students down here whenever they’re going over a lesson that they feel could be backed up by VR content,” Hamby said. “Students who learn more visually and interactively, it’s been a huge help to them, because they can actually interact with the content.”
Students have access to a wide collection of apps and software, including Google Earth and YouTube 360, that allow them to dissect an animal, tour ancient cities, assemble/disassemble a car engine, explore the composition of human anatomy, engage with wildlife and, of course, get up close and personal with prehistoric dinosaurs.
Collinsville senior Addison Kallam, for example, used the school’s new VR technology to get a glimpse of life overseas as part of her Spanish class.
“We were visiting Spanish countries,” Kallam said. “We learned how they live, how it’s different from us, and I think it’s beneficial because that’s not things we get to see every day.”
Collinsville Public Schools’ VR lab, one of three rooms in the new VR annex built as an extension onto the 9th Grade Center, is currently only the second VR high school lab in the state of Oklahoma.
The lab is available to Collinsville students of all ages in Pre-K through 12th grade.