In 2017, Trinity expanded their STEM offerings by creating an Aviation course for Year 11 students. This course was the first at the College to incorporate VR into the classroom, providing a safe testing environment for the students and allowing them flight time and necessary simulation experience in a classroom setting. The Aviation course was so popular with students that in 2018 the College decided to offer Aviation as an ATAR subject.
Since launching Aviation and VR in 2017, Trinity’s VR lab has more than doubled in size. What started as five VR stations in the corner of a science lab has evolved to 17 VR stations in a dedicated VR classroom. A replica Cessna cockpit is expected to complete the VR lab later this year. Each station consists of a computer, an Oculus Rift headset and controllers.
Aviation is only the beginning for VR at Trinity. The College has just partnered with The ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology (PEB) at the University of Western Australia to pioneer the use of VR technology for science education. In this ground-breaking pilot program, Year 8 cell biology students will learn about plant biology through the Virtual Plant Cell (VPC), a custom-built, VR compatible 3D environment representing a plant cell. It allows for user movement through, and interaction with, the cell and its key structures and processes.
Adam Gage, Head of Digital Technology at Trinity has said “Our VR labs enhance learning by allowing students to conceptualise objects in a virtual world, regardless of their size. For instance the mitochondrion, ribosomes or nucleolus of a cell would otherwise be represented with little spatial information and remain abstract concepts. The use of virtual reality (VR) in education can be considered as one of the natural evolutions of computer-based training (CBT). It will be exciting to see opportunities that develop in this area.”
VR has existed for decades, but it’s only recently that reduced cost, greater availability and increased hardware capabilities have made it accessible to schools. Trinity is capitalising on the novelty and immersion of VR to enhance learning experiences for students and provide new opportunities in STEM education.