A virtual reality tool to help high school students decide on their future careers was introduced Tuesday at Assumption High School, Davenport.
Assumption received a $25,000 STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, grant, and has used the funds to help develop the software and to acquire Oculus Rift hardware.
Ultimately, any student in the nation can download the career exploration tool and virtually visit work sites across the United States.
In a news conference at Assumption, five students, most of them seniors, put on the VR headsets and sat at computer monitors to demonstrate the software.
The teens had a choice of videos on various careers, including some from professionals in the Quad-Cities. They included Dr. Myra Daniels, who works in family medicine at Genesis Health System; John Maxwell, owner and farmer at Cinnamon Ridge dairy farm in Donahue; and Dr. Jennifer Ewoldt, a veterinarian in Eldridge.
Those professionals, and dozens of others, are now part of the new VR program. The app is available for free on the Google Play store and can be found by searching "VR STEM Career Exploration." A version for iPhones will be available on Apple’s app store beginning in June.
Victory VR traveled to visit with experts in traditional and non-traditional STEM careers. Assumption, armed with the grant received last year, has approached, especially, upperclassmen with the technology.
Jared Grubbs, 18, a senior from Davenport, enjoys the online experience, he said. Once he puts on the headset, Grubbs, son of Steve Grubbs, company founder, said he is "totally immersed in sight and sound."
He likes to take field trips and said it's possible to do online without actually getting permission slips and taking a bus to a site. Grubbs will graduate from Assumption this weekend and plans to attend Iowa State University, Ames, and major in engineering.
Abbey Heinrichs, 18, also from Davenport, said the technology is "so realistic, it's amazing." Heinrichs also will attend Iowa State next year and said she will probably major in child development and family services.
The president of the Quad-City Engineering and Science Council, Chris Courmeyer, is in business development for Victory VR. Assumption was selected for the award, she said, made possible by grant from the Iowa Governor's STEM Council.
"The tools that Assumption uses will give the students more access to STEM career options," Courmeyer said.
Wendy Martin, the school's science teacher, said personal visits from people in various professions are a traditional way to find out about various careers. But through the online program, students also can see the people working at their jobs.
"This is a step up," Martin said of the software.
"It is really exciting," she said. "The kids will be more interested if they can actually see and hear what the people do."
The videos are made with Go Pros, used by Victory VR personnel. About one-third of the professions are local, but the company traveled across the nation to make the videos.
In a typical video, Sam Genson said, Steve Grubbs will interview a person in a specific profession, asking them what they do, specifically, and what advice they could offer someone investigating the career. Genson is media relations director at Victory VR.
The high school VR curriculum will be fully developed in another 18 months, Genson said. Middle school programs, for students in grades 5-8, are to be finished for the 2017-18 school year.