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About the Imagine Project

Filming VR panoramas

The LABScI Imagine project is a collaboration between the Stanford University LABScI program and the University of Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology, which aims to use cutting edge technology to facilitate learning in non-standard classroom environments.

The goal of the project is to create a Virtual Reality Field Trip Program for students with limited resources, including hospitalised paediatric patients or those otherwise unable to experience nature firsthand. In the summer of 2018, we visited 32 different National Parks in the United States (spanning Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California and Colorado) to gather footage from the American West which will be used to develop interdisciplinary curricula with a STEM focus. Once created, we can demonstrate these curated field trips on inexpensive, readily available technology such as the Google Cardboard VR. Each lesson also includes hands-on lab activities and covers topics such as deposition and erosion; plate tectonics and geological uplift; desert adaptations; local flora and fauna; human geography and anthropological history in the area.

Who We Are

Packard Childrens Hospital

LABScI is a hospital school science program sponsored by the Spakowitz Research Group at Stanford University and based at the Packard Children’s Hospital School at Stanford. LABScI creates hands-on lessons for students in non-traditional educational settings such as hospital school classrooms, hospital bedsides, home schools, or other resource-limited circumstances. The educators and volunteers have to consider unique factors and challenges including restrictions on patient mobility, medical isolation, lack of teaching resources or specialised instructors, and hospital restrictions on sharps, chemicals, and open flames.

The Systems Research Group within the Department of Computer Science and Technology seeks to broaden the use of modern technology within climate and environmental education and encourage open source development of accessible solutions. The team is working on on how best to deliver the curated teaching material to students via a range of technologies, initially using Google Cardboard VR, Oculus Go and similar mobile devices.

In order to gather footage for our LABScI curriculum, we did an initial trip in the hot summer of 2018 to a wide array of US National Parks. We are currently working on processing the terabytes of panoramic video footage we captured during the trip, but you can find notes on the various places we visited on the 2018 Grand Staircase Trip page.

The Teaching

The LABScI Imagine project aims to make interdisciplinary geographic curricula available for all non-traditional learning environments, initially by using modern virtual reality headsets to provide an immersive and interactive experience. This project is important for students who are unable to travel to environments such as US National Parks for themselves, and who may not understand their connection to nature.

In particular, we are first working with hospitalised children; those who are in isolation or are immune-compromised may never get the chance to take a field trip. According to the CDC, nearly 3% of school-aged children 5-11 years of age missed 11 or more days of school due to hospitalisation in 2014. For chronically ill patients, the hospital stay can be months or even years, and even after discharge many are unable to travel due to health constraints.

Many patients travel outside their home communities to seek medical care, which means their schooling is disrupted. Fortunately, most paediatric hospitals include an educational department, and many have in-house hospital schools to serve long-term patients. Hospital schools around the country share the challenge of educating students who face serious illnesses. Our goal is to make interdisciplinary geographic curricula available for all non-traditional learning environments. Currently, there is a distinct lack of resources for the restricted hospital environment.

360 recording in action

The Technology

Our vision is to expand this project beyond individual devices and headsets to utilise entire rooms and buildings for shared, interactive virtual learning and experience. We plan to tackle the dual challenge of content generation and technological deployment by working directly with National Geographic and the Centre for Digital Built Britain. Regarding content, we have interviewed Park Rangers about the possibility of providing field specialists with low cost, energy efficient, low latency recording and sensing equipment to wear and use in their daily jobs.

Meanwhile, the first prototype of our new operating system (Osmose) that drives a shared, multi-tenant situated environment is underway at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Crowdsourcing content will give us unprecedented scalable access to environmental data which we can curate and eventually deliver freely to a broad audience.

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