Students experience life on Mars through VR

Broadalbin-Perth Intermediate School students, Sara Kuchera, left, Paton Carey, Ellie Peters, right, use virtual reality to travel to Mars Thursday as an introduction to a project students will be working on. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

BROADALBIN — Students of Broadalbin-Perth Intermediate School traveled to Mars on Thursday exploring the red planet through virtual reality.

Using the VR provided by technology teacher, Allison Renda, students were able to see and experience Mars. Students saw a series of locations on Mars such as Mount Sharp, Mars Curiosity Rover, the first landing site on Mars in 1997 by Mars Pathfinder, the Yogi rock which led scientist to believe there was water on Mars and the Mars Exploration Rover. Following the experience students were then shown a couple locations on the International Space Station.

Students were using the VR as a sort of introduction to their project researching what it would be like to live on Mars. “This is basically an enrichment course, so they start looking at how they were first going to get to Mars,” said teacher Ashleigh Ferguson. “So they thought about what they would need for the journey.”

She said they have looked at current research for current interplanetary travel and some of the students had the opportunity to do more research on Mars looking at the temperatures and what some of the challenges might be for colonizing Mars. She said the students will be designing some of the homes or thinking about what they would actually need to live on Mars.

“I’m really curious to see where this takes them,” Ferguson said. “It’s so great that Allison has come up with this because they might understand what the temperature is on Mars, but to actually go there and be able to think ‘these would be the surroundings if I lived here,’ it’s a totally different experience, it takes it to a different level.”

Broadalbin-Perth Intermediate school student, Ethan Bornt, uses virtual reality to take a trip to Mars. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

“My favorite part is when they put it up to their eyes for the first time and you hear them all go ‘Wow, look at that,'” Renda said.

Renda has been helping classroom teachers incorporate virtual reality technology into their curriculum to provide students with new experiences and new perspectives on the places — such as Mars — they’re learning about in the traditional classroom. She uses Google Expeditions VR experiences and View-Master goggles during her VR lessons. Students have used the VR when studying the Amazon River, the Amazon Forest and Machu Picchu. They have also used VR to experience the Olympics.

“The students are doing what it’s like to be an Olympic athlete, so we put them on VR athlete videos so they actually got to feel like they were the down hill skier, or the ones doing the curling,” Renda said. “It really puts you in that perspective even more so than Google Expeditions does. It’s a video feed that really puts you in that perspective of being that person going down the hill.”

Broadalbin-Perth Intermediate School students roam the classroom as they use virtual reality to travel to Mars Thursday as an introduction to a project to see what it would be like to actually live on Mars. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)