Mon09222014

Schools

LASD partners with zSpace to enhance STEM curriculum


Traci Newell/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District launched a partnership with zSpace, Inc. a company that designs units offering a 3-D personal computing experience.

The Los Altos School District recently joined forces with zSpace Inc., a startup that produces 3-D visualization stations, to boost its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum.

The zSpace system re-creates the standard personal computing experience into an immersive and interactive 3-D environment, commonly used in the business world for computing, creating and visualizing but now being pioneered in local schools as a learning tool.

The zSpace unit, which includes a screen, lightweight glasses and a stylus, enhances the 3-D experience. The glasses track the position of the user’s eyes to determine the appropriate plane of vision. The stylus can be used to reach into the screen and pull out an object to hover in a different area.

The district piloted the equipment with fifth-graders at Covington School during their study of the heart. Using the equipment, students could see a beating, fully functioning heart and dissect it using the stylus, which simulated the heart’s beats. With clicks of the stylus, students could peel off layers of the heart to peer into particular veins and chambers.

After their tryout at Covington, the zSpace units moved to Santa Rita School. The district acquired another set of units for use at Springer and Gardner Bullis schools this year. Students at Egan Junior High and Blach Intermediate schools can also experience zSpace technology, possibly in math courses.

“Through our partnership with zSpace, we will help develop and expand STEM learning tools in Earth, space, physical and life sciences for students in third through eighth grades,” said Alyssa Gallagher, district director of strategic initiatives and community partnerships. “Should the first two phases of our pilot be successful, we plan to engage all nine Los Altos School District schools in phase three, beginning fall 2014.”

Gallagher said the district’s teachers and STEM coaches are collaborating with zSpace employees to identify which units would be most appropriate to integrate into district classrooms.

It is a mutually beneficial relationship, according to Gallagher, because district teachers can provide feedback to the zSpace team to help them optimize technology for students in the future.

“Our benefit is that our students and teachers are getting exposure in the very early stages,” she said. “We have the ability to help shape and craft this technology the way we wish to use it in the classroom.”

For more information, visit zspace.com.

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