Gerhardt Troan (left) and Matthew Armstrong checked out some of U-Connect’s virtual reality headsets. The students are working on software for the virtual world.

Langley students take on virtual education

Blending the virtual and the real is the aim of a new Langley education project.

Students at Langley’s U-Connect program have been building robots and writing computer code for several years, but this year they’re going into virtual reality.

Under the direction of teacher John Harris, students are writing educational software, and plan a game that will merge multiple disciplines to teach kids about math and language at the same time.

Students are now transitioning into working in virtual reality environments from the type of programming they’ve done before, said Matthew Armstrong.

Armstrong and classmate Gerhardt Troan are both enjoying the new challenge.

“It’s very enjoyable, but at the same time it’s kind of mentally exhausting,” said Troan.

Harris said the virtual reality development program started this year. The PAC raised about $11,000 for the project.

The program has three phases in three media.

First, the students will develop interactive Android apps for the Google Cardboard device, a very simple system that literally uses cardboard boxes and cellphones to create the VR device. Students are also experimenting with the Samsung Gear system, a more sophisticated version of the same phone-based technology.

The second phase will see students develop for the Oculus Rift, one of the most popular of the emerging virtual reality devices.

In the third phase, Harris said he’s hoping to have the students be approved as beta developers for Microsoft’s Hololens technology, which can superimpose virtual reality images on real-world environments, a system sometimes called “augmented reality.”

One of the main goals of the program isn’t just to create software, it’s to merge the virtual and the real worlds.

“Our philosophy is to turn students from consumers of technology to creators of technology,” said Troan.

The students are working on the early stages of a game that will use mathematics and mythology, a project that will pull in other departments at U-Connect and its host Simonds Elementary in Langley City.

The hope is to have something that will be an actual product by the end of the year.

Troan described the Hololens technology as a kind of real-world version of the holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Harris said that while the program is centered on computers, one of the goals is to get students away from just staring at a screen.

Using 3-D printers and internet-connected physical objects, the project will eventually allow students to, for example, print out a model car chassis and then design an engine for it, superimposing the engine over the chassis in VR and making adjustments to the design.

A 3-D printer, a laser cutter, and other devices for making physical objects are part of the future of the project.

“Something happens to a child’s sense of competence and confidence and life goals when they look at a piece of software and go ‘I could make that’,” said Harris.


Just Posted

Suspected spill kills hundreds of crayfish, coho in Langley river

A fish kill in the Nicomekl has a biologist concerned for the health of the local ecosystem.

Rams harvest sweet victory in win over Huskers

The Chilliwack team found itself pushed back again and again.

WATCH: Cops for Cancer bring message of hope to Langley school

Young cancer survivors are traveling with the fundraising bike ride.

Boxing coach takes shot at Langley City council run

Dave Allison has lived downtown for years and wants to represent his neighbours.

Langley venue of glass provides bright stage for charity art show

West Fine Arts Show runs Friday to Sunday at South Langley’s Glass House Estate Winery.

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

Aldergrove soccer forward enjoys scoring spree

UFV Cascades’ Jhaj named Canada West second star of the week

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

New ‘meowyoral’ race featuring felines announced by B.C. animal shelter

Organizers hope the cat election will generate attention for shelter and local municipal election

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Lower Mainland city calls for slower trains near popular beach

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said ‘it’s the least we can do’

Most Read