Announcing The EdSim Challenge Winner  

We are delighted to share that today the U.S. Department of Education announced the winner in the EdSim Challenge! The Challenge launched in November, calling upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for a globally competitive workforce and spur an ecosystem of virtual and augmented reality technology in education.

Five finalists were selected out of an impressive 249 submissions. Each finalist received $50,000 in cash as well as in-kind prizes from Oculus and Samsung, and refined their submissions during the Virtual Accelerator. Finalists presented playable prototypes to the judges at Demo Day at the end of the Virtual Accelerator.

The winner is: 

Osso VR: A hands-on surgical training platform that enables users to practice cutting-edge techniques through realistic, hands-on simulations, bridging the gap between career exploration and career preparation.

The winner was recommended by a panel of judges with expertise in education, gaming, workforce development, emerging technology, and venture capital.

Osso VR will win $430,000 in cash and additional in-kind prizes from IBM and Microsoft.

Congratulations to Osso VR and thank you to the five finalists for your tremendous participation! Learn more about how each of the simulations prepares students for the workforce of tomorrow here.

Highlights from Demo Day at the Department of Education

On September 18, 2017 the Virtual Accelerator phase culminated with the EdSim Challenge Demo Day, where a live audience joined the Challenge judges at the Department Of Education to see the five finalists compete for the $430,000 grand prize.

It was an action-packed day. Below are a few highlights: 

The U.S. Department of Education shared its vision

To kick off the day, Sharon Lee Miller, Director, Division of Academic and Technical Education for the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, delivered opening remarks. She laid out the potential for educational simulations, highlighting areas such as efficacy and access:

“Simulations are well-suited for career and technical education for a number of reasons, they encourage applied learning by interacting with objects and people, and by mimicking real-world situations, simulations enhance employability skills, including interpersonal, analytical and organizational abilities. Furthermore, they increase student safety, allow for diverse rates of progress amongst students, and boost access to programs with limited resources.”

“Father of the Internet”, Vint Cerf, validates the effort
Vint Cerf, Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist, spoke to the exciting future ahead for VR and AR technologies in learning. Taking the long view, he challenged the audience to think about how to best prepare today’s students for 80-year careers.

The finalists presented their solutions 

Each finalist presented their seven-minute pitch to the live audience, including judges hailing from organizations including Ford, Microsoft, and Girls Who Code. While the finalists focused on a range of career and technical skills from surgical training to archeology, they all spoke to the power of this immersive medium as a learning tool and demonstrated what virtual and augmented reality can do for education and the future of our workforce.

Participants experienced the immersive demos

During the demo portion of the day, the judges and attendees had the chance to fully immerse themselves in each simulation. From a hands-on visit to the operating room to an exploration of astronomy concepts, the participants tried a wide range of educational experiences that teach career and technical skills.

Stay tuned for the winner announcement

The EdSim Challenge winner will be announced soon. Follow along by subscribing to our newsletter or following @EdPrizes and #EdSimChallenge on Twitter.

6 Experts Helping to Bring the Finalists Simulations to Life: Meet the Challenge Mentors

Our five finalists are hard at work in the Virtual Accelerator, where they’re focused on further developing their solutions for Demo Day. An integral part of this phase is the opportunity for finalists to receive individualized advice from industry-leading mentors. The Challenge mentors represent an impressive spectrum of expertise, from instructional design to software architecture to VR game design. We’d like to thank each for their contribution to the Challenge.

Robert Bourgeois: Expert in using VR in the CTE classroom

Robert has been a middle school and high school Career & Technical Education (CTE) teacher in Durham, NC since 2003. He has instructed high school students in the use of various applications including the Adobe CS Suite, 3ds Max, and the Unity game engine. During the 2016 -17 school year, he taught and managed a small team of CTE Advanced Studies students who modeled an abandoned prison in rural Laurinburg, NC and created a virtual reality walkthrough of the site for real-world clients.

Dicxiana CarbonellExpert in the development of CTE instruction

Dicxiana is the Assistant Superintendent of the Essex County Vocational Technical Schools. Throughout her tenure in education, she has focused on integrating innovative technologies into the instructional process. Through the GenCyber grant, awarded by the NSA, she exposed over 400 students to cyber security, and used this foundational knowledge as an introduction to computer science, web design, gaming, engineering, and cyber forensics.

Tyler Hopf: Expert in UX/UI design and 3D modeling

Tyler is a Creative Director at IrisVR where he helps professionals visualize, share, and create 3D models using virtual reality. He is also a teacher of Immersive and Virtual Reality Design at the School of Visual Arts. His expertise lies in UX/UI design and 3D modeling, along with a working knowledge of Unity.

Dalton Grey: Expert in iterative design and learning games

Dalton is a Game Designer at Institute of Play, whose aim is to transform education through play. He was the founder of State of Play NY, a R&D design studio focused on iterative design. His specialties include learning games design, iterative design, and paper prototyping with a focus on designing for constraints in education.

Dario Laverde: Expert in software architecture

Dario is a senior developer evangelist at HTC with an engineering background and over 25 years of software development experience. He has worked as an instructor, consultant, software architect, author, entrepreneur, and mentor. Dario founded several developer communities including NYC Java, NYC-GDG, NY Android, and is currently active within the VR community.

Leah Potter: Expert in instructional design

Leah has focused her career on instructional design, and has developed expertise in middle and high school curriculum development, game-based learning, digital badges, and academic and CTE standards alignment. Leah was the winner of the U.S. Department of Education’s Reach Higher Career App Challenge for her solution Hats & Ladders, a career learning platform.

5 Teams Changing Career Education: Meet Smart Sparrow

This post is the fifth of a special “5 Teams Changing Career Education” series, featuring Q&A with the EdSim Challenge finalists. These solutions demonstrate the exciting potential for an ecosystem of next-generation simulations to strengthen in-demand career skills.  

Our last post features a Q&A with Jacqui Hayes, Director of Inspark Courseware Production at Smart Sparrow and David Sarno, Founder and President of Lighthaus. They developed LifeCraft which explores the story of life on Earth with VR voyages through biology, archaeology, astronomy, and beyond.

How will your concept help students prepare for future careers?

Jacqui: When we develop science courseware, we focus on developing experiences that teach (and assess) critical thinking skills. These skills in observations, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation are important to many career paths.

David: Many careers paths have a deep component of observing and interacting with your immediate environment: nursing, farming, architecture and construction, or being a biologist or a chemist. Being able to create lifelike environments and simulate real situations is one of the VR’s great promises. We’re starting with biology — allowing students to observe and take control of a microscopic animal cell. But later we’ll expand this approach — explore, observe and interact — to many other fields.

What’s the biggest insight you’ve uncovered through the Challenge so far?

Jacqui: The gimmick trap is exactly what we want to avoid – we’re very interested in seeing how VR in the classroom can meaningfully improve learning outcomes for students. I suspect that at first we will see an increase in learning outcomes, but it won’t necessarily be because the learning experience is better in VR. Instead, there’s something called the Novelty Effect, where you can see an improvement in learning outcomes by changing something not relevant to what is being taught – for example, if the teacher wears a hat, paints a wall in the classroom red, or flicks a light switch in the middle of a lesson. So, our idea from the beginning has been to make a series of small VR experiences that integrate into a course in a meaningful way that gets beyond the Novelty Effect. And it was great to hear that assumption validated by what students want from the new technology as well.

David: We visited a high school in New York – UA Maker Academy – to talk to students about how they like to learn and how they would like to use VR. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the students themselves articulate a desire for meaningful VR experiences that integrated with other lessons at school, rather that one-off gimmicky experiences.

How do you see your solution evolving over the next six months to a year?

Jacqui: This is a really interesting time in education and VR because the field is so wide open. There is rapid innovation in the user experience in VR, let alone in learning experiences. There is a lot of room to play and analyze to figure out what the best learning routines are in this new medium. So, we’re planning to test our experiences a lot as we develop them to get this guidance from watching students use the experience.

David: It’s a little bit like panning for gold. We’re setting up the infrastructure that’s going to let out students discover valuable little bits of experiential learning, and we’ll be watching closely to see what those look like so we can make room for more of them. And the more gold dust you find, the closer you are to the motherlode. Said another way: We’ll keep taking this approach, enabling students to explore, measure, and interact with simulated environments, and build on the best parts of it based on the feedback we get from teachers and students.