Students create their own 3D content

Educators say the best part of the 3D program is that students become independent learners, invested in their own skill sets.

Some tech-savvy school districts are helping students take knowledge and creativity into their own hands by giving them the chance to create their own 3D content.

And many educators say that 3D is a logical path for today’s students, who are accustomed to customizing their technology tools for their own needs.

“With 90 percent of most learners being visual in nature, I definitely see 3D as the next step in curriculum,” said Jeff Epps, information technology director for Richmond County School District in Rockingham, N.C. “The ability to take a concept and visually display it with interactivity is a powerful teaching tool. Also, to provide students who possess the skill sets to produce concepts such as 3D simulations represents a quantum leap for K-12 education.”

Epps, who directs the Globally Ready Engineering and Technology (GREAT) 3D Academy and Classroom, said the program began when the county’s partner, the BRAC Regional Task Force at Fort Bragg, donated portable 3D theaters to various school systems in the county, with the initial goal of providing teachers with 3D content that could be used to enhance classroom instruction.

However, Epps decided to move in a different direction by having students create the content.

The 40 students in the program, ranging from grades 5-12, attend the GREAT 3D Academy as a class during the day, while others attend it as an after-school enrichment program.

The students learn to use AutoDesk’s 3ds Max software and Unity’s game design engine to create 3D simulations that are viewable on both passive (polarized) and stereo (presenting two offset images separately to the left and right eye of the viewer) 3D systems. Using a combination of internet-based tutorials, instructor-created tutorials, and student-created tutorials, students are introduced to simulation and game design as early as the fifth grade.

In the beginning, students create content specific to their weaknesses in math and science. They also create content that is career-specific. Many students also create content for their teachers for extra credit.

Examples of student work can be seen at the Richmond County Ninth Grade Academy, where students are using 3D design to visualize The Hunger Games book series. As a group project, students visualize the arena and immerse the reader into the story.

Meris Stansbury

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