09 May 2023 STEM Connect KC Partner Profile: VRoKCs
This month’s STEM Connect-KC profile introduces VRoKCs, an organization that gives high school students the chance to tackle industry-related challenges using virtual reality.
Through VRoKCs’ hackathons, students address industry-related problems by applying their STEM expertise to realistic scenarios—developing their teamwork, presentation and research skills along the way. At the same time, local businesses can explore and test VR simulations for their own use by sponsoring and generating problem statements for students to address. Participating businesses receive several prototype ideas that can be turned into actual VR applications with assistance from the students who proposed and developed the solutions.
VRoKCs Event Manager Phillip Hodges says these hackathons can help students discover aspects of VR they’d like to explore further.
“VRoKCs offers a platform for students from diverse backgrounds and with varying skill sets to collaborate on industry-related challenges, gain knowledge from one another, and develop their STEM skills,” Hodges says. “Students can experiment with VR development and entrepreneurial concepts in a low-risk, high-reward environment. With just one weekend of participation in the hackathon, students can discover which aspects of VR development and entrepreneurial methods they are interested in exploring further.”
Next up for VRoKCs is a new in-school program designed to reach students whether or not they have experience in tech. Hodges says VRoKCs is seeking partnerships with administrators and teachers for the program, which can be applied to any career pathway. The model calls for weekly sessions that run 12 to 14 weeks, starting with basic VR development, expanding to a simulation based on classroom curriculum and culminating with a collaborative project relevant to students’ chosen career fields.
“The goal is to foster knowledge and skills in various career paths, including project management, ideation, presentation, marketing, and community outreach, in addition to VR development,” Hodges says. “This will give students a broader range of careers to learn and explore.”