GRAHAM, N.C. (WFMY) – Juniors and seniors at Graham High School are the first to ever tour all 16 UNC system campuses in a single day, under a single building.
How? Through virtual reality.
Steven King, professor of emerging technologies at UNC-Chapel Hill was among the developers of the program.
“This is our first time to really get it into the schools and get it in the hands of students and let them experience wat a real college is like through a virtual reality experience,” King said.
It's all part of the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs or GEAR UP, a grant project with the U.S. Department of Education that assists students with college awareness and access.
The entire project has been 7 years in the making and was funded with GEAR UP funds awarded to the University of North Carolina System.
The development of the app and the execution of the launching of it has taken over a year.
“What’s exciting about it is combining virtual reality, artificial intelligence and all these new emerging technologies are in the hands of students to help them make decisions about how they’re going to learn ow to work in those new fields,” King added.
To use the VR set, first students must download the app available for Android and iPhone cellphones, next they open the Google cardboard kit and assemble the goggles.
Next, students place their phone in the designated compartment with the app launched and the school they wish to “tour” selected on the app.
Finally, they place the goggles over their eyes to watch and move around to view every angle of the shot: it’s 360!
Each student received a Google Cardboard goggle set to place their cellphone with the launched Gear Up App to start their tour.
“When they received their goggles it was almost like an Ellen DeGeneres commercial: everyone gets a free goggle, and on top of that you get a free trip, so just having that awesome experience is great,” said Valerie Sellars, STEM specialist at Graham High School.
“Since we heard about the app and its creation, we could not wait to have the opportunity for our students so that at one time we could all go and visit all 16 universities,” she added.
Senior Michael Kelly said, “It’s really beneficial to a lot of students that can’t really get out to these bigger universities or make hose 3 and 4-hour drives accounting their family or anything like that.”
Fellow senior TJ Stanfield shared, “It’s really nice to basically learn about something you’ve never seen, and it really opens you up to maybe going somewhere you haven’t really thought of before.”
King explained that this app is just about that: access.
“This app is all about giving access and letting students experience places that they may not be able to afford to go or just have the time to go,” he said. “They can look at all of the schools, see what’s best for them, and decide where to go.”