July 8, 2013

Another 3D Jedi

Get ready to meet another 3D Jedi master! “What is a 3D Jedi?” I consider 3D Jedi to be those rare educators who lead the way in student-created 3D content. (Here is a link to some of my past Future-Talk 3D postings about 3D Jedi in the U.S.: The 3D Jedi and the Return of the 3D Jedi .)

In last week’s post, we identified the great work underway in the Virtual Reality Educational Pathfinders program or VREPThe program’s success with students appears pronounced. According to Terry Collins, board president of the East Marshall Community Schools, "people really don't know what we have what we been able to do for students outside the typical educational realm.” He clarifies: "It [VREP] brings out introverted students. It's done great things for our students."

Rex Kozak, a 3D Jedi
Rex Kozak, principal of East Marshall High School and director of the overall VREP initiative suggests that the program has really nurtured student confidence, providing students with practical relevance for learning. He explains it this way: “Kids say ‘now I know why I'm taking this course.’" According to Kozak, "VREP knows no social or economic barriers." He tells the story of a struggling high school student with a 1.0 grade point average going on to community college and finding true academic success as a result of his participation in the very successful VREP program.

Program Reach
The program appears to possess a broad reach. At East Marshall High School, where the program originated, more than 200 students a year are typically engaged in 3D design experiences.  And if you count the students that they reach through classroom follow-up projects, plus others joining the program across Iowa and the nation, VREP has easily touched more than 5000+ students to date. 

Program Funding and Support
Interestingly, this project is funded and supported through local business partnerships. And it’s not the typical drive-by partnership we see so often in education. "This is true partnership," explains Kozak. "In my 30 years of education, this is the truest merger of education and industry to really promote the education of students that I have ever seen.” Elementary teacher Owen Credits his superintendent for securing donations and small grants to make his project happen. He adds: “John Deere has also donated technical expertise, along with a CAVE that VREP can access.”
Of course, the VREP project is in continuing need of support from interested business partners, both local and national.  Some of their needs include financial and equipment support, as well as connections to the industry to show how 3D is used in the real world. If you are interested in providing support or collaboration efforts, feel free to contact the VREP director, Rex Kozak.

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