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EDINBURG, RGV – Dell and Intel consultants reached out to Nerdvana after learning about their use of emerging technology such as drones and virtual reality in educational camps.

Nerdvana, a place where the residents of the Rio Grande Valley can go to experience emerging technology, was founded late Nov. 2015. Hiten Patel, founder and chief executive officer of Nerdvana, said his team acquired a 15,000-square-foot facility and turned it into a technology playground.

Patel said Nerdvana, Dell and Intel hosted a Virtual Reality Exploration and Discovery Event to get hands-on experience with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive to figure out how to use the technology to benefit learning in the classroom.

“[We’re trying] to figure out how [virtual reality] can be leveraged … to improve education and improve learning in the classroom for kids in the RGV, all across Texas and ultimately all across the United States.”

The Oculus Rift allows the wearer to experience virtual reality with a variety of subjects to choose from such as games, movies or educational videos. Some examples are a skydiving simulation and a tour through the human body.

The HTC Vive allows users to experience virtual reality on a physical scale. Two remotes are given to the wearer and allows the individual to perform actions in the virtual environment. One game is Tilt Brush and allows the user to paint in 3D space.

Patel said Nerdvana hosted the summers camps in partnership with Border Kids Code, an organization focused on developing coding initiatives in the Rio Grande Valley. Nerdvana worked with La Joya Independent School District (ISD), Mission Consolidated ISD and Sharyland ISD. About 100 kids from the three school districts participated in camps relating to virtual reality, drone technology, robotics and coding.

“The kids built out virtual tours of different geographic global sites. Some of the kids were assigned to Paris, some of the kids were assigned to Egypt and the pyramids, some had the Great Wall of China [and] others were assigned to different universities. They had to build virtual tours, so they had to do the research, the history, figure out all the facts and then be able to put that into a virtual tour for the rest of the class to [experience].”

Snow White, senior consultant in education business development for Dell Incorporated, tested out Tilt Brush and other virtual reality games. She said Dell creates computers for virtual reality and has invested in Alienware–high performance hardware for gaming. Now, Dell is trying to figure out how to incorporate the technology in K-12 education.

“All of us got to experience [virtual reality], so we saw firsthand what this might be like for a kid,” White said. “It’s great to see different options for kids because they do have different learning styles. We think it would be really exciting for the kids to make that content come alive with hands-on experience.”

Patel said virtual reality technology can have a tremendous impact on the classroom.

“Virtual reality will facilitate better learning in the classroom because it’s not just reading from [a] textbook or doing a worksheet,” Patel said. “Children will be able to learn in a completely different way. Now it will be an experiential exercise where the children can interact with this virtual environment. They can be underwater, they can be in space, they can be in the sky and do things that they couldn’t do just sitting in a boring classroom.”

In the future, Nerdvana will work on after-school and weekend programs that will be accessible to everyone in the community.