Field Trip: Surreal Virtual Reality Studio

(The following blog article is first in a new series for this year, where each student in the Advanced Engineering II group is required to write a blog article on a recent field trip or related topic of their choosing. The first article comes from Joshua in 11th Grade.)
We thought space was the final frontier, but we were wrong. There is a new realm out there that is becoming readily available for exploration. Virtual reality is here, and it has been here for a while. Virtual reality, like it or not, is a growing part of world culture. It has grown so much that virtual reality arcades are becoming more and more popular.

The Advanced Engineering II class at Providence, myself included, had the opportunity to go to a new virtual reality arcade in Santa Barbara that is being developed by Mr. Whited. (Our field trip was for testing and educational purposes only, of course!) The studio had its grand opening on Thursday October 10th, and it is an experience fit for everyone, whether you want to have some family fun, a party, or just want to beat your high score that you were so close to beating last time you went. Mr. Meadth drove the group down to the intersection of Haley Street and State Street and we made our way over.

Joshua looks on as Nolan gets settled into his headset, ready for
a trip through the rings of Saturn!

Upon setting our eyes upon the testing site, the whole class was excited. We saw two stations for single-player games, one station for a two-player game, and two stations to host their four-player games. The Advanced Engineering II class was split up into two groups to play the four-player games.

The first game had us embarking on an expedition around Saturn as space rocks flew past. The second tested the fight inside of us as we were sent down an alien-infested river on a raft. Sadly, we had to make it back to school in time for pick-up.

Alex at Surreal Virtual Reality Studio sets up Sam and Pedro
with hand controllers and headset

Reflecting on the experience, Pedro remarked that “it was pretty amazing and fun. It was just a fun experience seeing how technology has improved.” Nolan afterwards said that it “was pretty cool. It was my first time using virtual reality so I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought it was a really fun experience. I also think that virtual reality will be a really useful tool in the future.”

Nolan was right about virtual reality becoming a useful tool, and in actuality it already is one. Virtual reality has some really amazing uses that are only just being made widespread. For example, teachers are able to use Google Cardboard, a cheap virtual reality setup which uses your phone as a screen, to take their students on virtual field trips that they wouldn’t be able to do normally. At the University of Westminster, criminal law professors use virtual reality simulations to teach their students how to hunt for clues and construct a murder case in a realistic scenario. Trade schools are able to use virtual reality to teach their students as well.

Virtual reality used to be a thing of the future. Now it is a thing of the present. It is coming quickly with surging popularity. It isn’t something to be afraid of, especially with all of the great uses for it. Virtual reality is something to be embraced for its dual ability to entertain and to educate.

(Surreal Virtual Reality Studio is open for business at 436 State Street, Unit B, just behind the Craft Ramen restaurant. Their October special pricing is still available, and you can make a reservation on their website. Thank you Mr. Whited for the chance to preview it!)

Gabe Farhadian: Honorable Mention

It’s always a delight to see one of our seniors finish up with a personal best. On the court, in the classroom, and in the community, we love to celebrate special accomplishments. This past week, Engineering Academy member Gabe Farhadian did just that!

Gabe Farhadian: Honorable Mention

For the second time, Providence School sent a group of students to the High School Design Competition put on by the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara. The seven students—Gabe, Eva, Seung, Joshua, James, Sam, and Zach—drove with Mr. Meadth up to Direct Relief‘s headquarters in Goleta (a gorgeous modern building in and of itself, if any extra inspiration was needed!). Armed to the teeth with T-squares, triangles, architectural scale rules, and custom-built drawing boards, the enthusiastic students listened carefully to the instructions for a particularly unique challenge.

The competition organizers gave everyone a large scale map of the State Street Theatre District, and described how they would need to redesign part of Victoria Street to become a pedestrian paseo, complete with apartments, public transport connections, and landscape gardening. The idea for this competition came from actual professional charrettes that took place in Santa Barbara not long ago, and is in keeping with possible future plans for that area.

All seven students took to the challenge with gusto. Those who participated last year already knew that six hours to work would not be enough, so they charged in and started drawing. Only a combination of creativity and technical drawing skill could succeed in the task, and we’d like to think our Providence Engineering students have a good measure of both!

Gabe’s complete set of drawings: a site map of the Theatre District,
a floor plan of an apartment, and various other details

The results came in the next day, and Gabe was listed as one of the top twelve finalists! (Both he and Joshua achieved this same honor last year, and had presented their designs to a panel of judges at the Alisal Guest Ranch in Santa Ynez.) This year, Gabe would head out to Dunn School in Los Olivos to talk through his design with the panel of experts.

Gabe (right) stands proudly with the top five

Gabe was first in line to present, with his family standing proudly by (Gabe’s mother, Katherine, is a local landscape architect). At the close of the event, he and one other student from Dunn School were awarded an honorable mention alongside the winners, who came from Laguna Blanca, Dos Pueblos, and Santa Ynez. Well done!
In the 2019-2020 school year, the younger section of the Providence Engineering Academy will spend a significant part of their time on architectural studies. Drawing to scale in plan and elevation, finding creative solutions in teams and as individuals, and using CAD software to represent ideas—there’s so much to look forward to as we seek to “inspire and equip” students to act as “imitators of a creative God.”