Ironman gadgetry a reality for ACU step-up students

Giorgia Lee is barely old enough to drive but she is slicing back layers of skin to reveal muscles, nerves and bone.

This is no sterile, stuffy hospital theatre, but rather a lab of a different kind where high school students use augmented reality technology to discover how the human body works.

Australian Catholic University (ACU) has opened the door of its Virtual Reality Perception-Action Rehabilitation Clinic and Learning Environment (PARCLE) in Brisbane to provide curious teens with a cutting-edge glimpse of life as an undergraduate.

All the students are from low socio-economic schools who, for the first time, have opened their minds at the School of Behavioural and Health Sciences’ lab to technology-enhanced learning previously only used in military, engineering and aviation fields.

“We’re giving real-life experience of university life to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to this sort of technology,” ACU Equity Pathways Officer Jake Hardiman said.

"Once they’ve had that taste, we hope it can shape their perception of higher education and ultimately ease their transition into future studies."

Students from Earnshaw State College and Sandgate District State High School, in Brisbane’s north, gave up part of their holidays recently to harness Microsoft HoloLens technology to help them better understand human anatomy.

HoloLens uses a headset to overlay digital data and images onto the real world. The wearer retains peripheral vision, but can interact with floating 3D images, characters and menus.

It could be described as a real-world adaptation of the holographic technology used in the workshop of fictional character Tony Stark in the Ironman film franchise.

“It’s pretty cool, especially the sound effects,” Earnshaw Year 12 student Giorgia Lee said. “Doing it this way helped me understand the concepts better.”

Giorgia’s classmate Samuela Gilligan took some time to come to grips with the technology. “It was kind of freaky at first but because it’s so visual it’s a better way to learn,” he said.

In this case, students could view muscles from any angle and strip layers of tissue without the need to work on cadavers. Casting software than transmits the images onto a screen allowing other members of the class to take part.

“Without the PC, the rest of the class would only see their mate waving a hand,” ACU School of Exercise Science tutor Geoff Warman said.

"In that space (PARCLE) you can shape the tutorial so it’s quite interactive."

The intensive step-up unit is funded through the Federal Government’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) and delivered by the ACU Equity Pathways team in partnership with faculty.

Uni Step Up is delivered at no cost to the student or school. Those who complete the Uni Step-Up units Growth, Motor Development and Ageing or Indigenous Health and Culture can earn credit towards corresponding degrees at ACU.

“University is all about broadening horizons, and this program certainly does that,” Mr Hardiman said. “This is about increasing participation in higher education.”

 

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