SDSU uses virtual reality in ambassador program high school visits

BROOKINGS, S.D. — Students at South Dakota State University have been using virtual reality as an immersive learning tool in the classroom.

Through the school’s ambassador program, student representatives can use these same virtual reality goggles and worlds to inspire high school students to reach for their college and career dreams.

“This year was the first year of our College of Natural Sciences Ambassador Program. So with that, part of what we do is outreach into local and regional high schools,” explains Julie Fischer, a junior human biology student at SDSU. “So just getting them excited and involved with science and just basically everything that not only SDSU can offer, but just a career in science can offer. We bring the VR headsets to the high schools, let the students use them explore, whether it’s anatomy or DNA cell structures, anything like that — kind of catering it to whatever they’re currently learning. Just kind of enhance that learning, and again, get that excitement about science going.”

This also helps students to explore different majors and career options before they start pursuing a specific path.

Obviously we want the students to come and get their education here at SDSU, but we also just want them going into these medical science related fields,” Fischer adds. “So if that’s just sparking that interest for them, like — wow, this was so cool to see this cadaver on the virtual reality headset — then that’s our main goal is just getting them excited and like prepared, I guess, for their college experience with those headsets.”

By creating a “hands-on” experience without having to set up experiments, students have easy access to science, as Fischer explains.

“I’ve been in a few classrooms where we, students, were like not even considering even a career in science, but then because we just went to a general biology class, they saw the DNA structure and they’re like, wow… they were just mesmerized by it. And yes, they’re still sophomores in high school, so they don’t know exactly what they want to do yet. But they do know that they’re really excited about science and what their future could offer.”

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