Board the giant blue bus parked outside West Potomac Academy and you’ll enter a futuristic world of learning focused on exploring the intricacies of the human body. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence (AI), and holograms are all used to give FCPS medical science students the chance to gain hands-on experience in a virtual environment. The 45-foot bus, or Immersive Learning Center (ILC), is a new educational program from the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences and Medi-Corps Program, aimed at helping high school students explore careers in the field of health.
As the students pass one of the large screens on the bus, they are transported to a situation where a football player has broken his leg. Students can participate as the athlete is treated by EMS professionals and taken to George Washington University Hospital where he receives care from nurses, radiologists, pharmacists and surgeons. The journey from the field to the hospital gives students insight into the variety of medical professions needed to treat a broken bone.
“The excitement of students getting up and interacting in immersive learning is so phenomenal to watch,” said Maria Kappel, career specialist at West Potomac Academy. “On the iPad, technology allows the skeletal system to come to life. They can add different layers of the body into a 3D model. It is very cool and useful for students.
Ten FCPS students were trained in the technology before the program was launched for all medical science students at West Potomac Academy. Trained students guide their peers through the various activities and help them get the most out of the virtual experience.
“This program definitely helps students learn,” said Spencer Taylor. “I’ve heard other students say ‘oh I’ve heard of this body part before, but I never knew what it looked like!'”
ILC’s first stop is the Governor’s Academy of Health Sciences at West Potomac HS, and will also visit the Governor’s Academy of Health Sciences at Falls Church High School and the Academy Governor’s STEM at Chantilly High School later this school year.
“GW recognizes the need to attract more young people to health science careers,” said Terri Capshaw, GW’s Community MediCorps Program Director. “We are committed to bringing technology to high school students who have shown an interest in health sciences so they can pursue that career with the help of this high-tech programming.”
As students and staff become familiar with technology over the coming months, they can choose activities that reinforce the curriculum taught in the classroom.
“We are thrilled to provide opportunities for students to explore health literacy and make connections outside of the classroom,” said West Potomac Academy Administrator Jennifer Alpers. “This advanced technology allows our students to learn the same material taught at top colleges and universities, which is very exciting.”
GWU received a grant from GO Virginia to create the ILC program.
Learn more about the ILC on the GW website.
Learn more about West Potomac Academy.
Watch this video to learn more about how FCPS students interact with virtual reality aboard the ILC.