Share This Page

Immersion lab at Montour to offer new learning opportunities for students

| Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015, 9:16 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Inside the Montour Virtual Immersion Lab at Montour High School, physics teacher Doug Macek watches over Anthony Catanzarite, 16, a junior, as the class practices using the new 3-D technology, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Montour is the only school in Pennsylvania that has this new technology. Using special glasses, stylus, and monitor, the tech allows students to work on lessons that include the virtual dissection of everything from a red blood cell to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Inside the Montour Virtual Immersion Lab at Montour High School, Giovani Tarquinio, 16, a sophomore, wears the special 3D glasses as he practices using the new 3-D technology, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Montour is the only school in Pennsylvania that has this new technology. Using special glasses, stylus, and monitor, the tech allows students to work on lessons that include the virtual dissection of everything from a red blood cell to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Inside the Montour Virtual Immersion Lab at Montour High School, Benjamin Minsinger, 17, a junior, works on dissecting a virtual snake as he and the rest of the class practice using the new 3-D technology, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Montour is the only school in Pennsylvania that has this new technology. Using special glasses, stylus, and monitor, the tech allows students to work on lessons that include the virtual dissection of everything from a red blood cell to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Inside the Montour Virtual Immersion Lab at Montour High School, Benjamin Minsinger, 17, a junior, left, works on dissecting anatomical parts as he and the rest of the class practice using the new 3-D technology, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Montour is the only school in Pennsylvania that has this new technology. Using special glasses, stylus, and monitor, the tech allows students to work on lessons that include the virtual dissection of everything from a red blood cell to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Inside the Montour Virtual Immersion Lab at Montour High School, physics teacher Doug Macek, wearing the 3D glasses, watches as the class practices using the new 3-D technology, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Montour is the only school in Pennsylvania that has this new technology. Using special glasses, stylus, and monitor, the tech allows students to work on lessons that include the virtual dissection of everything from a red blood cell to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Inside the Montour Virtual Immersion Lab at Montour High School, students, using a stylus and special 3D glasses, are able to dissect a virtual Tyrannosaurus Rex, as the class practices using the new 3-D technology, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The red pinpoints of light at the top are small cameras built into the monitor to follow reflectors on the glasses, allowing the perspective to change depending on what angle the students use to view the dinosaur. Montour is the only school in Pennsylvania that has this new technology. Using special glasses, stylus, and monitor, the tech allows students to work on lessons that include the virtual dissection of everything from a red blood cell to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Inside the Montour Virtual Immersion Lab at Montour High School, Andrrew Wendel, 15, a sophomore, and Zach Zapico, 14, a sophomore, practice using the new 3-D technology, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Montour is the only school in Pennsylvania that has this new technology. Using special glasses, stylus, and monitor, the tech allows students to work on lessons that include the virtual dissection of everything from a red blood cell to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Inside the Montour Virtual Immersion Lab at Montour High School, student Andrew Wendel, 15, a sophomore, wears the 3D glasses as his class practices using the new 3-D technology, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. Montour is the only school in Pennsylvania that has this new technology. Using special glasses, stylus, and monitor, the tech allows students to work on lessons that include the virtual dissection of everything from a red blood cell to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Wearing 3-D glasses and sitting in front of glowing computer screens, Montour School District students can construct holographic obstacle courses, peel back delicate layers of the human eye or dissect a Tyrannosaurus rex — all with the flick of a stylus.

“You're able to view things you'd never see in real life,” 11th-grader Michael Maslakowski said of the elaborate software that allows users to examine a dinosaur skeleton or experiment with a car's mechanics.

The Virtual Immersion Lab at Montour High School in Robinson, which cost $70,000, is the first full lab of its kind in the state. The district spent $50,000 on the lab, and the rest was paid for with a $20,000 grant from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, funded by local foundations, said Justin Aglio, director of innovation at Montour.

“The students are amazed by it. It is unique. There's a lot of buzz about the lab, even at other schools,” Aglio said.

Nearly all of the students who have used it say the lab is “so real,” said Elizabeth Lyte, director of education at zSpace, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif., and was founded in 2007. “You can pick up and pull out a beating heart or dissect a frog,” she said.

The company has about 70 employees and has installed labs similar to Montour's in about 100 school districts across the country.

Students in Douglas Macek's physics class were among the first to try the district's Virtual Immersion Lab.

The lab has 13 computers, each loaded with zSpace software, and a projector for teacher demonstrations.

The software has simulations tailored not just to math and science lessons, but to social studies and design as well. It includes, for example, models of a Celtic Village and the Great Pyramids.

It has applications beyond education — CAT scan and MRI software is under review for approval by the Food & Drug Administration.

Montour Superintendent Michael Ghilani said he stumbled across zSpace while researching innovative ways to engage students. The district enrolls about 3,000 students from Robinson, Kennedy, Ingram, Pennsbury and Thornburg.

Macek said the software comes with programmed lessons and structured activities, which teachers can edit. Teachers can design activities from scratch and view students' screens on their monitors, allowing for real-time feedback.

“Anything we can do in the classroom, we can do it here,” Macek said. “But it's a much more controlled environment, and you can't break anything.”

High school teachers received two days of zSpace training, part of the cost of buying the system, and some teachers have signed out the lab to show students the software, Aglio said. Teachers are able to sign out the virtual immersion lab as they would a computer lab.

The district plans to collaborate with Montour elementary and middle school teachers, and possibly other school districts, to share the unique space, Aglio said.

“We want to share our technology and resources with the region, so all of our students get better,” he said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com. Katherine Schaeffer contributed to this report.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.