Training and Development

ABC, 3D: Technology in our Schools

As technology evolves, it makes a significant impact across all curriculums in schools, colleges, and universities.  The 1980s saw students learning how to use computers – courses that were unheard of a generation before.  The 1990s introduced the World Wide Web and an indexing of human knowledge.  The 2000s included the rise of social media and the instantly connected generation.  More recently, wide acceptance and use of the Web were driving forces of change, from the creation of forums that continue discussions outside the classroom to the ability to take entire courses online. 

Now, technology is changing education again, with a particular emphasis on medical, science, and engineering studies.  The rise of three-dimensional (3D) technology offers an entirely new way for teachers to teach and students to learn in these critical STEM-related subjects.  

Up until very recently, in a typical high school or university science classroom, the curriculum was designed around the facilities and materials available.  Lab-based work offered hands-on experiences but would also be subject to the resources of that school or university.  This is compounded by how easy or difficult it may be to obtain any given material or tool.  Dead frogs, in an extreme example, would likely be easier for a school to provide its anatomy and physiology students than say, a human cadaver.  If a topic was not able to be explored first-hand in a lab, it would be discussed in the classroom with the use of visual aids, in-depth discussion, and published research works. 

The implementation of 3D technology into the classroom allows teachers to design curriculum around the latest scientific and engineering methods regardless of physically available resources.  Mindbender Academy, a science day camp geared to middle school students within Texas’ Frisco Independent School District, incorporated the interactive 3D environment from zSpace into its educational program. More than 400 students used the technology to assemble a robotic arm and explore an animated human heart model, clearly, comprehensively and in three dimensions.  This would not have been possible without virtual holographic technology. 

Colleges and universities face an added challenge: producing well-trained, productive, and prepared employee candidates. This past spring, CNBC cited a report from recruitment agency Adecco.  According to CNBC, Adecco surveyed 500 hiring managers; 66% “believe new college graduates are not prepared for the workforce after leaving college. 58% said they were not planning to hire entry level graduates this year, and among those managers hiring, 69% said they plan to bring on only one or two candidates.” Many employers are seeking candidates who are job-ready from day one and don’t require significant training or handholding. Yet, it can be difficult for recent graduates to have that level of experience coming right out of school. With 3D technology, students can simulate real-world scenarios, from designing robots to studying the human heart, helping them train and prepare for work post-graduation. 

Ultimately, science, medical, and engineering curriculum must be designed to graduate well-educated and trained people who are prepared for jobs in their chosen field.  Industry standards for knowledge must be met, and often requires extensive training and field work.  Technical skills must be developed, honed, and sharpened continuously, which can take extensive time and resources. 

3D virtual technologies can really make a difference in developing these technical skills.  By enabling the creation of simulated images that match real world scenarios, teachers can provide virtual hands-on, practical learning experiences, helping students to improve their understanding of the material.  University of Southern California, for example, uses technology from zSpace to visualize interactions between biological molecules in 3D.  As a result, students can clearly see and understand the complexities of the interactions between proteins and DNA.  The zSpace platform can also be found at Olin College in projects such as 3D puzzle solving, molecular modeling, UAV flight planning and protein nesting.  

Holistic virtual technologies are also more captivating and engaging for the student.  Instead of learning via rote memorization or from visual aids, students are engaged in learning through the manipulation of the three dimensional simulation.  In addition to learning the technical skills necessary for their chosen careers, the students also learn skills within technology and its potential for further discovery.  As a result, 3D virtual technology captures students’ interests, engages them in coursework, develops and hones technical skills, and equips them for job opportunities in the world of commercial industry, public research, and the science, medical, and engineering communities.


Dave Chavez is CTO of zSpace, Inc.


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Dave Chavez

Dave Chavez is CTO of zSpace, Inc. He brings 20 years of experience in start-up companies, working with technologies ranging from GSM infrastructure to laptops, printers, PDAs and smartphones, in both consumer and commercial product spaces.

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