Studies show that people recall details better when they are immersed--and nothing is more immersive than virtual reality (VR), where there are no distractions. VR is helping people overcome challenges such as test anxiety, phobias, PTSD and even the fear of public speaking.

Augmented reality (AR), while not as immersive as virtual reality, has its own benefits. Through AR, information is overlaid onto one's real-time environment. Imagine a doctor being able to overlay a CAT scan of a patient’s brain during surgery or a mechanic’s ability to pull apart a virtual engine, while working on the real engine underneath. 

We are very excited to be one of the first high schools in the nation to be offering courses in immersive technologies. Our students are being taught to develop applications for all of these technologies with Unity 3D, the industry standard in immersive experience development. Not only are they learning about spatial and immersive computing, they are also learning the C# programming language as well.

In addition to offering opportunities to learn VR and AR, Tampa Prep is now at the forefront of another frontier--spatial computing--which truly blends the virtual into the real world. It’s a sort of mixed reality. Unlike augmented reality, with spatial computing, virtual objects interact with and are responsive to the user’s actual environment. If a virtual ball is thrown, it bounces off the real wall and tumbles off the real table, complying with the laws of physics. It's not just an overlay. This technology is especially powerful in wearables, which is one reason why Tampa Prep has partnered with Magic Leap, a Florida-based, head mounted virtual retinal display company.

True to Tampa Prep’s culture of innovation and creativity, our willingness to always do what’s best for students, and our role as educational thought leaders and Florida’s Most Innovative School, our virtual reality (VR) curriculum was a student-driven initiative. Stemming from a student’s question of “can I try this?” in 2017, just a few years later our virtual and augmented reality IDEA (Innovate Design Explore Apply) Lab has:

  • 2 HTC Vive headsets
  • 3 Oculus Rift headsets
  • 2 daVinci 3D printers  
  • Dremel 3D45 3D printer

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No classes are taught in the lab, however, our Upper School Virtual Reality Development Club meets there twice a week. Our librarian and resident “maker” hosts an 8th grade VR Club in the lab, and art classes use it as well. Additionally, our VR App Development class uses the portable Oculus Go headsets, an almost 1:1 for that course. Why all the focus on VR? It is the future of innovation in so many fields.

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