3D and Virtual Tech Can Transform STEM Education
Meghan Brown posted on May 10, 2017 | 2478 views
(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

(Image courtesy of Dassault Systèmes.)

With new technologies come new ways to learn, especially for students interested in engineering and other STEM disciplines. Growing up with virtual reality and 3D printing, today’s students are naturally inclined to think and work in 3D environments. Schools need to recognize this fact and approach STEM education in new ways, to make sure they are teaching students the skills they need for the future.

Studies have already shown that students understand and retain more information from engaging in full 3D experiences than from traditional educational methods such as demonstrations, visuals, lectures or reading materials. 3D technologies bring theory, experimentation and imagination together, creating a digital representation of the physical world, which can be leveraged to create powerful new educational methods—everything from exploring the inside of a beating human heart to being immersed in an urban master plan. 

“When the International Research Agency studied how students in seven countries responded to life science taught with 3D materials, the results were astounding,” said Al Bunshaft, senior vice president global affairs North America at Dassault, and one of the leaders of the company’s STEM initiatives. “Compared to students taught the same information with lectures, reading and 2D imagery, students in the 3D classes learned more, remembered it longer and applied their learnings in advanced ways their peers could not.”

“Students who had disliked school became eager to attend and discuss what they’ve learned.  Suddenly, science was a fun experience everyone wanted to share,” Bunshaft added.

The key aim of this kind of education is to equip students with accurate 3D models and understanding, and the knowledge of how best to use these technologies, so that they will be better prepared for their future real-world experiences.

Supporting STEM Education and Research in the U.S.

La Fondation Dassault Systèmes, is one of the organizations dedicated to transforming the future of education and research through the learning and discovery capabilities of 3D technology and virtual universes.

Today, the foundation has announced its expansion into the United States, extending the scope of its social action to the U.S., enabling the creation of new learning experiences and encouraging greater interest in science, math, engineering and technology among students of all ages.

Based near Boston, the non-profit Dassault Systèmes U.S. Foundation will provide grants, digital content and educational resources using virtual technologies to select projects proposed by teachers, schools, researchers, museums and other institutions located across the U.S.

This will help the students who will make up the future technological workforce to build their knowledge in the 3D content, technology and simulation applications that have long been used for product design, engineering and manufacturing. These technologies can also be leveraged to create new educational content, where experiences in virtual environments enhance our understanding.

“Grants from La Fondation Dassault Systèmes will range in value, and enable recipients to expand the boundaries of education and research by developing 3D content specific to their fields.  Content created through these grants also helps to encourage greater interest among students in the vital disciplines of science, math, engineering and technology,” said Bunshaft.

“We seek to fund innovative projects in education and research that use 3D and virtual universes to innovate and transform education and research,” he added.

Lifting Off with Base11 and Quadcopters

The foundation’s first funded project, also announced today, is an initiative with Base 11, a non-profit workforce development accelerator. This project provides community college students with training in collaborative 3D design and engineering — skills that are in demand by many large employers in high-tech industries such as aerospace and transportation.

The Base11 program is part of a summer residency program where high-potential, low-resource community college students are paid to spend their summer at the University of California, Irvine campus, working on projects to build these in-demand skills. 

But they won’t be in the lab all day; these students also get to experience off-site visits to companies where they are exposed to potential career paths that will be available to them through the skills they are developing.

According to Landon Taylor, the CEO of Base11, students in the program will complete a series of mini-projects that expose them to electronics, programming, fabrication techniques and computer-aided design (CAD) including Dassault's own 3DEXPERIENCE platform. 

At the end of the program, the mini-projects will be combined, with students designing and building a fully functional quadcopter. They will also identify a real-world problem that they want to solve with their quadcopter drone and examine the potential to commercialize their idea.

Future plans for the program include a 2018 roll-out of a full academic year program throughout Base11 community college partners, where students will have the opportunity to earn college credits and even industry-recognized certifications.

Thousands of students in Europe have already benefited from projects supported by La Fondation Dassault Systèmes since its launch in 2015. These projects include the development of a university study program based on virtual reality in the United Kingdom that is aimed at preparing students for surgery and improving patient care, and the collaborative, multi-disciplinary creation of 3D educational content for a network of 11 universities in Spain aimed at facilitating and accelerating study programs related to industries of the future.

Now students in the U.S. can enjoy the same opportunities.

“The U.S. is home to many of the world’s most prestigious academic and research institutions,” said Thibault de Tersant, president of La Fondation Dassault Systèmes. “Virtual universes stimulate possibilities in innovation, research and education through collaborative experience.  They also prepare students for the professional world, where they will design, simulate, test, create and transform ideas into real solutions. Dassault Systèmes is proud to bring its contribution to this important undertaking which is at the core of its values.”

The Dassault Systèmes U.S. Foundation is now accepting proposals for projects.

For more information, visit lafondation.3ds.com.

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