Iowa STEM BEST Partner brings STEM reality to the classroom

Assumption High School students experiencing virtual reality made possible by the STEM Best award.
Assumption High School students experience STEM careers almost first-hand, using a virtual reality app made possible through its STEM BEST award.

“It’s making learning real.”

This is how Wendy Martin, a science teacher at Assumption High School in Davenport, talks about how her school’s STEM BEST partnership with VictoryVR, a Quad Cities technology company, is changing the way students learn about STEM careers.

The STEM Council provided a STEM BEST cost-matched award of $25,000 to Assumption High School last October based on its proposal to partner with a local business and develop a tool that would benefit students not only in Iowa but across the nation. The program, “VR STEM Career Exploration,” uses phone-based virtual reality software to bring STEM careers from throughout the U.S. directly to students eager to explore future employers.

From a phlebotomist to a veterinarian and an industrial engineer to a science teacher, students have the opportunity to virtually “step into” the worlds of 20 different STEM careers (and growing). Each vignette physically places students in laboratories, green houses, observatories and more as these STEM employees explain the day-to-day duties of their job, their educational pathways and their passion for what they do.

Not to mention, the program meets 24 standards tied to NGSS for grades 5-8 thanks to expert collaboration between educators and the VictoryVR team. Come fall, Assumption High School will begin using the tool in all of its classrooms as well as for career guidance conversations between students and counselors.

Fortunately, the program is available to anyone, anywhere. As long as you have a smartphone and access to Google Cardboard or other affordable, VR headset gear, you can download the free app from the Google Play Store and get started. A version for the iPhone will be available in the Apple Store in June.

And, don’t forget, the STEM Council invites proposals for up to 16 more STEM BEST models to be launched across Iowa in October. Learn more about the opportunity by visiting www.IowaSTEM.gov/STEMBEST/proposal.  

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