Group seek to raise funds for virtual reality classroom

By Joseph Slacian

The Wabash County 4-H Council, in conjunction with the Wabash County Purdue Extension and the Wabash County Farm Bureau, are seeking the public’s help in raising funds for a new program.

The organizations are seeking to raise $10,000 to purchase 30 Google Expedition. The goggles will enable the groups to have a virtual reality classroom to help education youth and adults alike.

Thanks to grants from several businesses and industries, the fundraising campaign is at the halfway point, according to Angela Christopher, 4-H Youth Education and County Extension Director.

A $3,000 grant was received from Owens Corning-Thermafiber, while Walmart and Halderman Farm Management and Real Estate each contributed $1,000 as well.

“We would like to thank the contributors who have already saw the need and who have contributed,” Christopher said. “We appreciate their willingness to jump on board with it.”

Earlier this year, the groups borrowed a set of goggles from the Indiana State 4-H office, which has an ongoing partnership with Google, she said.

“It was phenomenal,” Christopher said. “It was a huge hit in the county. We had almost more requests than we could make it to in the 10-day window that we could check these out. All 92 counties are trying to check out the same set of goggles from the state 4-H office.”

The goggles take
an entire classroom of students on a virtual field trip at the same time, she explained. Instructors, she continued, have a large number of field trips at their disposal.

“So when they look into the goggles, what they see is an arrow,” Christopher said. “It points them to a direction we want them to look. We have a table that we control.”

For an Ag in the Classroom program, she said, the students went of a field trip to a robotic dairy farm.

“We could put a target on what they were looking at in their goggles, and we could see it on our screen,” she continued. “We could say, ‘OK, this is a robotic sensor and the cow has already been in too many times (for milking). It showed them the inside workings of a dairy farm.”

The goggles have other advantages in the field of agriculture.

They will allow the students to visit “places that they might not normally be able to go to because of biosecurity concerns or safety concerns,” she said. “We can take them on these virtual field trips. That’s what we really like about it.”

“There’s hundreds of field trips we can take them on,” Christopher said.

In addition to being used in ag education, students can explore various careers by taking virtual trips to universities as well as behind the scene job shadowing. They also can take virtual trips to other countries to explore different cultures, as well as exploring the workings of the U.S government and taking virtual trips to such buildings as the U.S. Capitol and the White House.

Students can explore health education by viewing such things as the inside of a heart or the inside of lungs by using the equipment.

“We control everything they see through a table which we have,” Christopher reiterated. “As a teacher, we can see if they’re not looking where we asked them to look. It forces everyone to go to the same place and listen to the same message. It’s all done virtually, so you don’t have to have the buses and go places that might not be available here.

“We just want to be able to offer these experiences. As three groups that educate the community, we want to be able to offer these virtual experiences and be able to educate in new ways.”

Christopher said the groups would like to meet the $10,000 goal as soon as possible so the goggles can be ordered and received in time to be used during the Ag in the Classroom program in March.

“They come in nice travel cases of 10,” she said. “So, it’s actually three sets of 10 we’re ordering. The nice part with this set of 30 is we would get a 360-camera, in which we can create our own field trips.”

That is appealing to farmers such as Wabash County FB President Mark York, who operates a hog operation.

“He has a hog farm operation here in Wabash County and he can’t have people in to show what he does,” Christopher said. “It’s really appealing to him that he can take that camera in and we can create field trips of our own local facilities.”

The county had use of the state’s set in April, and Christopher said the youth who were able to use them were extremely excited.

“It’s virtual and it’s technology,” she said. “For me, it’s easy for even my Junior Leaders to use. They see the scripts and they can take the younger kids on field trips. It just gives them that extra leadership and responsibility as well.”

Anyone interested in contributing to the effort should contact Christopher at the Wabash County Extension Office in the Wabash County Courthouse. She can be reached at 260-563-0661, Ext. 1408.

Posted on 2018 Nov 27