Students board bus to new worlds

zSpace explores how human hearts, beluga whales, airplane engines work

Discovery High School freshman Riley Carlston, 15, visited the zSpace virtual reality learning center bus, parked outside his Camas high school, Oct. 17, and said he was most interested in dissecting virtual auto and plane engines.

Discovery High School science teacher Heather Tricola (fourth from left) stands with a group of Discovery freshmen Oct. 17, outside the zSpace virtual reality bus parked in front of the newly opened project-based learning high school in Camas.

The bus looked ordinary enough, parked outside Camas’ Discovery High and Odyssey Middle schools.

Inside however, students were discovering extraordinary worlds.

“It’s gross, but cool,” said Discovery High freshman Chloe Bell, 14, as she virtually dissected a tarantula inside the zSpace virtual reality learning bus.

Near Bell, Camas School District Superintendent Jeff Snell donned a pair of the virtual reality glasses and dove into the inside of a human heart.

“It’s really cool,” said Discovery High science teacher Heather Tricola, who had just shuttled one group of students out of the bus and was on her way to pick up another cluster of freshman eager to play with the zSpace computers. “They’ve been able to dissect human hearts, beluga whales, even airplane engines.”

The visiting bus is one of two mobile zSpace classrooms, which travel to schools and universities to show educators and students how they might incorporate virtual reality technology into their lesson plans and curriculum.

“zSpace is transforming education today. Hundreds of thousands of students are using the technology in their classrooms and labs worldwide for STEM learning,” said Shaun Wiley, of L. Wolfe Communications, a Chicago-based public relations firm. “Students can dissect organs, dive into volcanoes and more – all in a virtual reality world.”

The zSpace learning experience “enables fearless learning,” Wiley said, as students can take apart complex machinery, dive into chemicals and even practice surgeries without any risk of breaking, spilling or injuring anything or anyone.

The bus visited the Camas schools Oct. 17, after stopping at Benson High in Portland and the ESD 112 district office in Vancouver earlier in the week, said bus driver Tim Caster.

Odyssey Middle School students filled the bus during the morning hours Oct. 17, and Discovery High freshman came aboard that afternoon. All of the students seemed transfixed by the intricate technology.

Discovery freshman Riley Carlston, 15, came back for a second turn at the virtual reality computer, and said he was enamored by the machine’s engine section, which allowed students to deconstruct and then rebuild a variety of engines, including the four-cylinder engine commonly used in light aircraft.

Carlston said he enjoyed taking the engines apart and seeing how the different components fit back together.

“I’d like to maybe someday work on cars, so this is fun for me,” Carlston said.