Posted: Friday, April 17, 2015

Several hundred students at J.L. Mann High Academy, Beck Academy, and Sevier Middle gained exciting hands-on experience using 3D printers, laser cutters, and scanners through a program called BetaBox, a mobile learning lab built inside a shipping container that encourages students to use creativity and innovation while problem-solving.

J.L. Mann students enrolled in NewTech, Project Lead the Way, entrepreneurship, computer applications, and digital media classes participated in the BetaBox experience. The “box” then moved to Beck Academy and Sevier Middle schools, where over 260 Gateway to Technology (GTT) students were able to see 3D printing, Leap Motion gesture-based technology, and laser cutting in action.

BetaBox was first introduced in Greenville earlier this year at Roper Mountain Science Center’s STEMFest. “Roper Mountain Science Center teamed up with our Career Technical Education staff to bring these engaging technologies to our students,” said RMSC Director Michael Weeks. “It is inspiring to see how excited they were and how quickly they absorbed new technology. In just a few minutes they learned how to use technology to make 3D scans. These are the kind of experiences that create the spark and curiosity to interest them in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.”

Nicholas Sailer, Director of Creativity for Betaversity, the makers of BetaBox, was on hand at Sevier Middle School for the demonstration. “The whole idea with BetaBox is that you can walk in and prototype any idea you might have,” he explained. Students, with the supervision of Betaversity employees and their teachers, worked on projects including designing and assembling laser-cut virtual reality glasses and puzzles.

“We have a laser cutter that makes the pieces that the students assemble to make virtual reality glasses. They assemble them, download a phone app, and slide the phone into the lens pieces to view a virtual world,” Sailer explained.

Christine Plumier, Sevier Middle School Gateway to Technology teacher, explained that the BetaBox experience takes the content of her class, which includes 3D computer modeling, to the next level. “I hope this experience will allow students to open their eyes to how technology is changing and how they can be a part of it,” she said.

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