UNCW Researchers Will Use Virtual Reality Technology to Encourage Students to Consider STEM Careers

Computer science assistant professor Toni Pence and Watson College of Education assistant professor James Stocker are leading a team of six UNCW scholars who will use virtual reality technology to enhance learning and encourage students from underrepresented groups to consider STEM careers. The project is funded by a $394,606 grant from the National Science Foundation.The immersive experience is tied to the curriculum, and the students learn by stepping into the virtual shoes of a STEM occupation. The project will focus initially on grades 3-5 but eventually could expand to middle school curriculum, said Pence, the principal investigator. “We have found that if we get students interested in their elementary school years, there is a much higher chance that they will go on to college and choose a STEM career,” she said. The project, which involves collaboration between the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, Literacy, and Special Education, will use VR technology to enhance learning and to introduce students to real-life problems and challenges encountered by people working in STEM jobs.

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