Plymouth STEM Spectacular!

Students have a go at the virtual reality projects

The world-leading Human Interface Technologies team (HIT) from College of Engineering and Physical Sciences recently took part in a four-day action packed science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) event in Plymouth Sound. 

The HIT team attended a special Marine Technology Conference with the aim of introducing 15 – 24 year olds to the exciting world of virtual, augmented and mixed reality. The projects demonstrated included marine projects previously undertaken by the HIT team researchers. At the event students recreated the wrecksite of one of the UK’s earliest submarines, the ‘HMS A7’ and the country’s first underwater habitat, the ‘GLAUCUS’.

The conference began with the HIT team displaying a range of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) demonstrations to a group of German apprentice students who were   shown a project to develop a VR model of an “Energy from Waste” plant, located in Devonport. The plant receives products that are not recycled or composted from across Devon, generating electricity as well as usable heat, including 24 megawatts of energy for delivery to the neighbouring Naval Base. The students were impressed with the team’s approach to use simple 3D models and 360 degree camera technology to develop an accessible VR representation of the Cold War submarine, HMS Courageous, currently moored as a naval heritage site at the Naval Base.  To aid the students with their projects, researchers organised a panoramic photographic survey of the Devonport Plant.

The remainder of the Plymouth visit involved the HIT team completing VR demonstration sessions with students from year five to eleven from St Peters Church of England Primary School and All Saints Secondary School. The students experienced a wide range of VR and AR projects from the Virtual Mayflower to interactive biology exhibits. Professor Bob Stone, HIT Team Director, donated his “serious games” book collection to the School, to help the students undertake background research for their assignments.

The final day of the Marine Conference was hosted by the National Marine Aquarium which generated a lot of interest from local and European students who attended as well as those serving nuclear submariners to members of Plymouth City Council. 

Tina Brinkworth, an Education, Participation and Skills STEM Consultant at Plymouth City Council was responsible for the excellent organisation of the weeks’ events.  She commented “Thank you to Bob and the team!  Over the week so many young people in Plymouth have had the opportunity to learn so much about AR, VR and MR. The team have been fantastic, the demos are brilliant and have inspired so many students from primary to post 16.  Regardless of the age, the feedback from teachers and students has been extremely positive. A huge thank you for supporting the Plymouth STEM Spectacular”.