SMART Project Brings Virtual Reality to the Classroom


Amazing virtual and augmented reality experiences are made possible by a SMART (Students at May for Augmentative Reality Technology) project that was generously funded by the John W. Alden Trust, the Constance O. Putnam Foundation, and the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.

More than 40 students at the May Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Randolph, Mass., virtually visited the moon and created 3D prints of the sights they saw. Our Educational Technology teacher also was able to incorporate SMART technologies – virtual and augmented reality and 3D printing – into our 4th annual SwAMP (Science with Art, Math, and Problem-solving) camp at the school.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the theme was SwAMP camp in SPAAACE! Participating students virtually visited the moon by being completely immersed into space using virtual reality obtained from the SMART project. With teacher support, some students created 3D prints of the moon, the lunar lander, UFOs, and other space-related objects. During a “Moon Party,” all grade levels of May Center students were exposed to space and moon-related activities and technology to commemorate NASA’s 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon. A component of the Moon Party included the technologies from the SMART project. 

During National Computer Science week, a majority of students took part in an Hour of Code program, learning to code projects connected to STEM-related fields. More than 130 students took part in technology and computer science activities. The activities ranged from music technology, making bracelets using binary coding, making greeting cards using picture coding, coding on iPads, coding a human-robot (a May Center School teacher!), and 3D printing keychain souvenirs.

Students also study Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech through a lesson on his biography and the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Students drafted their speech as if they had the chance to deliver one, as Dr. King did. To practice, they used the SMART technology. In the VR, they were able to see a crowd of unfamiliar faces looking back at them. The crowd sat there, some with notebooks on their desks or coffee mugs, looking right at the user in VR simulating what it would be like to give a speech or presentation. After presenting the speeches in VR, they were able to take off the headset and communicate their address to their peers. Students had many dreams and wishes, including wishing for summertime soon, wishing for equality for all, wishing for happiness and peace to their family, friends, and teachers. 

SMART is an ongoing part of the curriculum as the Educational Technology teacher continues to work with teachers to create lesson plans and teaching objectives.