Transforming Science Fairs with AR
Digitizing the science fair process in a remote learning environment
As a father of two teens and an involved member of the education community, I highly recognize the value science fairs can create in our youth. Over the last eight months alone, educators have struggled to find a balance between providing immersive learning experiences with effective technology that functions seamlessly with applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. This challenge is carrying over to the administration of science fairs, which have historically proven to be one of the most important activities that future innovators participate in.
I have the privilege of leading STTE, a non-profit that designs & deploys programs that prepare youth for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers.
In 2019 we designed and deployed the Sun City Challenge (sponsored by El Paso Electric), a renewable energy high school competition that challenged students to create virtual reality renewable energy environments and publish their scenes in Oculus. It was not an easy or typical competition but one that the students enjoyed and further demonstrated their capabilities.
This year when COVID-19 hit, we were inspired to develop an innovative program for science fairs. Educators who conduct science fairs have seen little programmatic changes over the years to the traditional model. Amplified with COVID-19, which has stalled the ability to congregate and have expos, there was a problem that needed to be solved, and that is where augmented reality is helping us inspire and excite students while providing a platform to participate in a fully remote science fair.
We call it the “AR Science Fair.” With the support of our sponsors Microsoft & El Paso Electric, we introduce students to new technologies to support STEAM learning and showcase innovative ed-tech solutions to challenges raised by the global pandemic.
AR Science Fair electrolyzes the science fair process by allowing students to submit a new wave of innovative projects electronically (at ARSciencefair.com) and display AR projects via an app.
Let me explain how our model will work.
We partnered with Assemblr out of Indonesia, who will help provide teacher and student training on how to develop assets. After students populate their scientific methods and data in our custom-built web application, they are then required to provide a deep link to their AR environments. After submissions, their projects will be displayed via our cross-platform app that will allow judges to see projects remotely and in augmented reality.
Imagine witnessing that volcano you did back in the day, erupting in AR in your living room in a very dynamic, illustrative event.
We even retrofitted our model to allow students an extension to the traditional science fair by aligning our model with the Texas Science Fair and International Science Fair competition categories.
By the completion of the program, we will publish the first fully augmented reality science fair book that will encourage parents and students to scan and witness the best science fair projects in AR.
With the right distribution channels and partners, who knows, maybe, science fairs can be as innovative as the innovations they are trying to produce from our students. The purposeful use of immersive technology may help efforts to increase the number of students pursuing careers in STEM. This disruption is worth experiencing!
Special thanks to our organizing partners:
- El Paso Electric
- ESC Region 19
- MCA Foundation
- UTEP Tech-E