Another example is a pilot program, Google SketchUp for Future Ready Engineers, at West Rockingham Elementary school. Fifth grade students learn the fundamentals of 3D design using Google SketchUp and visualize their weaknesses in math and science to better prepare them for end-of-year tests.
At Rohanen Middle School, the 3D Aviation Academy was established for students seeking careers in this field. Students learn the fundamentals of flight and 3D design simulation using AutoDesk’s 3ds Max and Unity. Using the engineering process, students design and model various aircraft.
Many other schools have projects involving 3D classes as well, and already, Epps said, teachers are seeing positive results.
“The 3D class at the Richmond County Transitional School was originally established there to increase attendance, and it has accomplished that goal. One of the students at the school passed the Algebra I end-of-course exam after failing twice before. Ironically, this student excels in 3D architecture. … What we have discovered is that many of the students walking our halls who are labeled ‘underachievers’ are those who excel in GREAT 3D Academy,” Epps said.
And it’s not just Epps’ district that sees 3D design as a way to motivate and engage students.
The Sioux Central Community School District in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, along with several others in the Midwest, is part of a program called Virtual Reality Education Pathfinders (VREP), which was created by Rockwell Collins—a famous space shuttle contractor. The company supports this effort in schools as a means of someday increasing the number of engineers in their industry.
For Dan Strohmyer, technology integration specialist for Sioux Central, the program is perfect for gifted students who are not being challenged in their regular classes.
“For example, [they have an] I.Q. of 130 and are getting a ‘C’ in science. The student is bored. I try to target those students for VREP. I also let students participate in VREP if they have a strong interest in 3D animation or modeling. For example, the industrial arts teacher sees a student that is extremely proficient in CAD design,” he said.
Currently, there are five students taking VREP for credit, and all are taking the class as independent study, which is a semester long and usually lasts about 45 minutes. However, the program is loaded onto the student’s one-to-one laptop, so students can work on their projects independently and whenever they want to.
“I joined mainly because the idea of making games and animation sounded really useful for making video games,” said Ethan Frazier, a 15-year-old freshman at Sioux Central High School and VREP participant.
Frazier, who is considering a career in computers/engineering/drafting and said he would love to work in a collaborative group in creating a video game “never before thought of,” said he initially signed up for the class because his Gifted and Talented program adviser suggested he consider VREP.
According to Daniel L. Frazier, superintendent of Sioux Central Community School District and a 2012 Tech-Savvy-Superintendent Award winner, the course is challenging because there are no teachers on staff trained to teach it.
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