12Mar

RCC takes virtual reality fieldtrips

RCC takes virtual reality fieldtrips photo

WENTWORTH – Have you ever been face to face with an eoraptor or gone swimming with an elasmosaurus? For most people, it’s improbable, as those creatures roamed land and sea 235 million and 80 million years ago, respectively.
But for Kelsey Weems, a sophomore working toward his Associate in Science degree at Rockingham Community College, it became a reality on March 12 – a virtual reality.
Weems stepped into a trailer parked at the Whitcomb Student Center, donned a headset and found himself in a prehistoric world.
“There was a blue screen, and a bunch of dinosaurs were listed. You click one and find yourself in their natural habitat,” he said. “It was pretty cool. The tyrannosaurs would walk toward you and roar at you.”
Next, Weems traveled through a brain. “The whole thing, the general idea, was pretty cool,” he said.
And then, Weems found himself walking around a spaceship.
“I could look out the windows at space and saw important parts of the spaceship,” he said. “It was kind of trippy. I felt like I was swaying back and forth in real life.”
Weems’ experience was courtesy of Learning Lab 360, a Raleigh-based virtual reality company that travels the state.
The company uses the Oculist Rift virtual reality system because it offers the best experience and takes up minimal space in the trailer that hauls enough equipment to handle 14 participants at a time.
“They can see anything, from the Titanic ... the ocean ... an African safari. They can build a Minecraft world, or learn about math or geography,” said Rebecca Habbershaw, CEO of Learning Lab 360. “They can go anywhere that exists in the past or the present or the future ... or someplace that’s totally imaginary.”
A former teacher, Habbershaw wanted to share virtual reality technology with students, so she started her mobile company.
“It’s for all ages, in every subject,” she said. “I just thought this was a great way to learn and this was the easiest, most efficient way to bring the technology to students.”
The time frame of the virtual reality experience can be exploratory or can last a specified number of minutes.
“We like to have lessons last about 20 to 25 minutes. We think that’s a good time frame for the class periods and also allows them to have a minimal amount of disorientation (after removing the headsets),” Habbershaw said.
“We have a lot of different experiences, and can customize based on what (students are learning) in the classroom,” she said.
“It was really cool,” Weems said.

March 12, 2019