Making VR STEM Learning Accessible to all Schools
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse stories with the mission to inspire kids and youth around the world to become empathetic entrepreneurs. This series features interviews with founders working on SDG 4 – Quality Education by a character named Spiffy. During COVID-19, education is especially important, so let’s get ready to learn!
SPIFFY: Hi Aditya! Thanks for joining me on this beautiful day. Could you please tell me about what challenges you’re addressing at Inspirit?
Aditya: Of course, I’m glad to get out of the house. We're on the mission to bring back curiosity, exploration, and creativity to science education through hands-on interactive virtual labs, simulations, and virtual reality. We want to inspire the next generation of learners through immersive experiential learning. Our tools are tested to improve student engagement, confidence, retention, and problem-solving skills, and we’re committed to building fun and meaningful virtual simulations for our students.
Students using VR headsets to learn with Inspirit. [Image courtesy of Aditya Vishwanath]
SPIFFY: That’s so fun! Science should engage our curiosity. Why did you decide to take on immersive STEM learning?
Aditya: The most humbling and transformative learning experiences for me are when I’ve had an 'aha' moment – and all of them came through 'experiencing science' for what it truly is, not through a passive lecture or video about the topic. I wanted to use my skills as an education researcher and technology designer to build the next generation of interactive learning tools for science education. I started this journey working with a low-income school in Mumbai, India, 4 years ago, and I’ve been working to deliver it ever since. :)
SPIFFY: This pandemic has been especially tough on schools without as many resources available, how are you using Inspirit to make the world a more equitable place?
Aditya: COVID has really exposed the vulnerabilities of our education system, and we decided to make our science content accessible for free, forever, to all our teachers and students – with more affordable pricing plans for more complex classroom use-cases. We fundamentally believe that education content should be free and we want to support teachers with incorporating new tools and resources for students – and not only in private schools and well-off communities, but in every community.
SPIFFY: SCIENCE FOR ALL!! :D What sort of milestone does that platform represent for you? What does it do?
Aditya: I mentioned that we’re launching our complete virtual science lab platform for the world to use for free. It’s a collection of experiences that do everything from taking you into the microscopic world of a plant cell or the DNA in your body, to the surface of the moon where you learn the laws of motion, to vibrant chemistry labs filled with fun hands-on experiments. This platform allows students at home today to travel to impossible locations and learn by doing.
SPIFFY: What failures have you faced on this journey? What did you do to overcome them?
Aditya: Building a virtual reality education company is very tough. And with COVID, most of our schools were unable to bring this technology due to budget cuts and other challenges. We decided to immediately introduce a PC and laptop application that didn’t require any fancy hardware or tools, and would allow teachers and students to access engaging learning resources right away from their home.
SPIFFY: Quick thinking! What’s something you’ve learned unexpectedly from someone recently?
Aditya: A friend baked a cookie for me last week. I was quarantining alone away from my family, and was working intensely on the company with my co-founder and team, and this heartwarming gesture made my day! It reminded me of the incredible joy of sharing and the thrill in small everyday experiences of life.
SPIFFY: Sharing joy is part of why I love being a journalist. Thanks for talking with me today.
Aditya: Of course, Spiffy. Thanks for sharing your joy with me.
Aditya co-founded Inspirit Learning, a virtual reality science platform, and is a PhD candidate and Knight-Hennessy scholar at Stanford University. His research takes a human-centered approach towards developing immersive learning experiences. Previously, he worked with the Google Education team where he studied how low-cost VR toolkits could be integrated into school curriculum. He also works at MakerGhat, a non-profit makerspace and incubator that works with underserved youth in Mumbai. (Aditya was nominated for Spiffy’s interview by Unshackled Ventures)
© 2020 Ladderworks LLC. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blog
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