RCTC Wins “Shark Tank” Grant for Virtual Reality Lab

RCTC was awarded a “Shark Tank” grant following a proposal pitch at the Minnesota State Educational Innovations Reception held at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel on April 20th. The campus was awarded the full requested amount of $22,700 for the creation and development of a virtual reality lab for the campus, which should energize both students and faculty alike. The presentation and “pitch” (which followed a written grant proposal,) was where an RCTC team made up of faculty, staff, and administration demonstrated the impact this venture could have.

Like the popular TV show, grant writers that made it past the written application process were given between 5:00-7:00 minutes of time to describe their initiatives in detail, and demonstrate how it would advance learning on their campus. The pitch was presented in front of a panel of four judges made up of students, Minnesota State system office staff, and professionals in the Twin Cities area. Following the presentation, the panelests were asked between 5:00-7:00 minutes of questions.

The RCTC team consisted of Guy Hamernik, Greg Frana, Scott Sahs, Ginny Boyum, and John Taccinelli presenting with video testimonials supportive of the project by Randy Renken and Teresa Brown. Greg Mosier, Simon Huelsbeck, and Susan Jansen also offered assistance in organization and delivery of the pitch. The first steps of implementing virtual reality in the classroom could come as early as this summer.

“Greg Frana and I have been watching VR evolve over the past year,” Hamernik said. “Of course, VR gaming is becoming a huge industry just like the Xbox and PlayStation, but in its wake comes a host of educational applications. This type of learning is coming. I am glad RCTC will be leading the way.”

Randy Renken, who has examined the VR program “The Body – 3D Organon VR Anatomy” is excited with the possibilities. “I have looked into what it would take to get cadavers in here to do human dissection, and it’s just too expensive,” Renken said. “The cost of the ventilation alone is outrageous. This will allow my students to do almost the exact thing at a fraction of the cost.” The $29 program allows examination of the skeletal system, digestive system, respiratory system, etc. in a non-destructive 3D environment.

“Looking forward to seeing my students’ jaws drop when they see this!” Science faculty member John Tacinelli said. Tacinelli was sold on the project with the thoroughly engrossing “Google Earth VR.”

VR can shrink learners down and take them through the blood system in “The Body VR,” or take them on a tour of the solar system in “Spacetours VR.” The challenge comes in implementing what VR can do within a course.

The team is currently looking at implementing the technology into Geology, Astronomy, and Anatomy and Physiology classes as a trial run, and expand as new software becomes available.

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