Prism raises funds from A16Z to teach STEM to kids in virtual reality

  • Virtual reality has become a growing trend in edtech, including startups that do VR classwork.
  • As VR headsets become more affordable, more schools may purchase them for classroom learning.
  • Now, a new startup is using VR to more effectively teach STEM lessons in K-12 schools.

adoption of virtual reality software Workplace training as a tool has become more mainstream over the past year, and now the technology can be taken to your local K-12 schools.

At least that’s what education expert and Prism founder Anurupa Ganguly is hoping for. After studying engineering and computer science at MIT, working as a teacher with Teach for America, and leading math and science education for the charter-school organization Success Academy, Ganguly found that the American school He had failed to engage most of his students when teaching math and science. ,

“One of the top indicators of success in STEM is the ability to reason spatially, or move 3D objects around in your mind and maintain perspective about the objects,” Ganguly said. However, most math-lesson plans rely heavily on memorization and regurgitation, and do not help children understand math and geometry in a vast context, she explained.

“Children should be able to do and experience something spatially through walking, but we don’t have the tools to measure it, even if teachers want to do it,” she said.

Ganguly built his first VR-class models – with the help of animators and designers – on the math problems surrounding exponential functions, or exponential growth, in algebra. They created a virtual scenario where a virus begins to spread inside a dining hall, and students have to calculate the spread of the virus.

They tested it in 2021 in a pilot program with research-grant funding from the National Science Foundation, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. “The kids told me, ‘This was the first time I understood what an exponential function was,’ because they derived it from their bodies and series of experiences,” she said. “That’s when I knew we were onto something.”

Now, Prism has raised $4.25 million in a seed round led by A16z (Andreessen Horowitz) to expand its algebra and geometry curriculum to schools across the US. Additional investors in the round include WXR Fund, Anorak Ventures, Avalanche VC; Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell; Andrew Sutherland, founder of Quizlet; Hans Tung, managing director of GGV Ventures; and Zaheer Dossa, founder of Function of Beauty, etc.

More than 20,000 students currently use Prism, and it is compatible with many VR headsets such as Pico and Oculus. The team expects to grow to 100,000 students in 65 school districts in 15 states by this fall.

Ganguly believes that the increase in federal pandemic-relief money in schools due to online schooling has made teachers more willing to try out new technologies in their classrooms. “I think right now, kids are coming back many years in math, and districts are looking for ways to accelerate learning so kids don’t fall into a remedial spiral, and there’s an unprecedented amount in the system,” she said.

“I really fundamentally believe that VR headsets and devices are going to be the next Chromebook in terms of one-to-one adoption,” she said.

Prism VR is joining a small, but growing crowd of lesson-plan startups that cater to teaching school-age children through virtual reality. Other companies include the 360-video chemistry-lab simulator. labster or ELB Learning senarioVRJohn Blackmon, CTO of ELB Learning, which offers a customizable geography module for social-studies teachers.

“The thing about VR is that you have a lot more retention value than traditional learning because of its experiential nature,” Blackmon said. “It’s the act of doing that is accessing your long-term memory.”

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