Trinity College’s virtual reality makes the sky the limit for aviation students

An aviation student gets to grips with Trinity's virtual reality simulator.
An aviation student gets to grips with Trinity's virtual reality simulator.

TRINITY College has become one of the first schools in Western Australia to use virtual reality (VR) technology in educating students.

Last year, Trinity expanded its science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) offerings by creating an aviation course for Year 11 students.

This course was the first at the college to incorporate VR into the classroom, providing a safe testing environment for students and allowing them flight time and necessary simulation experience in a classroom setting.

The course was so popular with students that this year the college decided to offer aviation as an ATAR subject.

Since launching aviation and VR, Trinity’s VR lab has more than doubled in size – what started as five VR stations in the corner of a science lab has evolved to 17 stations in a dedicated VR classroom.

A replica Cessna cockpit is expected to complete the VR lab later this year.

Each station consists of a computer, an Oculus Rift headset and controllers.

The college has also recently partnered with The ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology (PEB) at University of Western Australia to pioneer the use of VR technology for science education.

In this ground-breaking pilot program, Year 8 cellular biology students will learn about plant biology through the Virtual Plant Cell (VPC), a custom-built, VR-compatible 3D environment representing a plant cell.

It allows for user movement through, and interaction with, the cell and its key structures and processes.

“Our VR labs enhance learning by allowing students to conceptualise objects in a virtual world, regardless of their size,” Head of Digital Technology at Trinity Adam Gage said

“For instance the mitochondrion, ribosomes or nucleolus of a cell would otherwise be represented with little spatial information and remain abstract concepts.

“The use of virtual reality in education can be considered as one of the natural evolutions of computer-based training (CBT).

“It will be exciting to see opportunities that develop in this area.”

VR has existed for decades, but only recently the reduced cost, greater availability and increased hardware capabilities have made it accessible to schools.

Trinity is capitalising on the novelty and immersion of VR to enhance learning experiences for students and provide new opportunities in STEM education.