BLHS Modernizes Learning With zSpace Program

CONNORVILLE — Some realistic learning tools are helping students at Buckeye Local High School expand their educational opportunities.

Funding from a $25,000 Charles M. and Thelma M. Pugliese Charitable Foundation grant added zSpace 3-D learning software late last year which is outfitted with glasses to heighten studies. The $4,000 system is found in a makerspace on the second floor of the school and also includes special apps to hone the students’ knowledge of science, math and even history. Principal Coy Sudvary, who obtained the grant last spring, said it will further modernize learning for students in grades 7-12.

The zSpace system uses downloaded apps, including “Franklin’s Lab,” which provides a virtual look at electrical circuitry, and “Newton’s Park,” which includes lessons on physical science and Sir Isaac Newton’s theories. The apps also have capabilities to perform virtual dissections and offer a closer look at everything from atoms to the human body. Students wear 3-D glasses and utilize a special digital pen which links to the monitor and operates the programs. A webcam projects the images onto a larger flat-screen television for easier viewing and a small camera icon provides a microscopic look at images included in the lessons. Sudvary added that teachers and students alike can record the images from the screen and add them to their assignments.

“It combines virtual reality and augmented reality and is all hands on. There are pre-made assignments with lessons and tutorials on chemistry, cells, Earth science, geography, math, the solar system, history and more,” he continued, adding that high school classes use the program several times a week. “The teachers can record lessons to send to the classroom or the kids can record a lesson off the activity they are participating in. It’s an interactive way to look at things that are normally on a page or in a video and you can manipulate it in a virtual reality setting.”

Sudvary hopes to add more software in the future and will seek grant funds to finance the upgrades. In addition to the Pugliese Foundation grant, teachers Suzanne Smarrella and Crystal Fluharty received a $600 Best Practice Grant from the Jefferson County Educational Service Center to help purchase the apps. Officials said more teachers will be trained to use the system and benefit students at the school, while the educational opportunities are endless.

In addition to the zSpace equipment, the grant obtained last spring has also afforded the site to acquire mobile furniture, a green screen and new interactive technology to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. A former study hall was converted into the makerspace and seats up to 30 students. It features virtual reality headsets to view scenes on Earth, in space and under the sea; more than a dozen new Chromebooks with chargeable containers called tech tubs; a larger Makerbot 3-D printer to accompany two others onsite; and a Double Robotics Telepresence robot that features a screen mounted upon Segway-type wheels and is remotely controlled with a laptop computer. Sudvary said the robot has been used by homebound students and school officials and all of the equipment was provided by Tierney Brothers Inc. of Powell, Ohio.

Meanwhile, the room itself can hold up to 30 students and is used primarily for STEM projects, but other teachers can schedule time to take advantage of the technology. The items are also portable and can be taken to classrooms when needed.