BLHS modernizes learning with zSpace

NEW LEARNING SOFTWARE — Buckeye Local High School obtained zSpace 3-D learning software that can perform tasks such as virtual dissections and other lessons in science, math and history. The program was acquired with funding from a Charles M. and Thelma M. Pugliese Charitable Foundation grant as part of a high-tech makerspace created on the second floor of the school building.

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 that is outfitted with glasses to heighten studies.

The $4,000 system is found in a makerspace on the second floor of the school and includes special apps to hone the students’ knowledge of science, math and history.

Principal Coy Sudvary, who obtained the grant last spring, said it will further modernize learning for students in grades seventh through 12th.

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 that 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 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.

In addition to the zSpace equipment, the grant obtained last spring also has afforded the site to acquire mobile furniture, a green screen and new interactive technology to enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics 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 equipment was provided by Tierney Brothers Inc. of Powell, Ohio.