Science is thrilling and dynamic, and the way we learn it should be too.

World-renowned physicist and professor at Columbia University, Brian Greene, co-founded the World Science Festival alongside Emmy Award–winning producer Tracy Day with a single-minded vision: to transform how everyone experiences the wonders of science. He wants students to experience science the way scientists do — “as this exciting adventure of trying to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world.”

Children naturally possess a quality that is important to the study of science: curiosity. Greene believes that the formal education system, with its routine assessments and test-based learning, erodes that natural curiosity over time.

But there is no reason why curious children shouldn’t become curious adults, if science is introduced early and taught in a more engaging way.

The mission of the World Science Festival is to show children that the wonders of science go far beyond what they learn in the classroom, by bringing awe-inspiring learning experiences to as many students as possible.

Delivering Immersive Experiences

The World Science Festival envisioned taking big ideas off the page and immersing students in scientific phenomenon through virtual reality. It launched a virtual reality learning experience for schools in partnership with Verizon.

The idea was to allow middle schoolers to virtually enter different realms such as the Milky Way, where they can participate in the lifecycle of stars and planets. Abstract scientific concepts suddenly become more immediate, fun, and engaging.

"We wanted to show kids that science and the wonders of the universe transcend the details they learn in class,” says Greene. “Yes, you have to learn the ideas in class in order to grasp them more fully. But ultimately, we’re trying to give insights into some of the most exciting experiences you could imagine."

Using BlueJeans Meetings features and tools, the experience is made more immersive as teachers can direct learning using whiteboard or annotation tools and can appear live on-screen or as a robot avatar in virtual reality. Greene’s team uses digital cameras that float in the virtual world with the built-in capacity to adjust angles, so students can zoom in, pull out, and move around to fully explore the space.

Expanding Opportunities to Learn

When Greene’s team first rolled out the learning program, participants used virtual reality headsets. This limited the number of students who could take part, as not all schools have access to such technology.

To eliminate the need for a virtual reality headset and make the experience more accessible, the team integrated BlueJeans Meetings features into program delivery, using BlueJean’s software development kit.

Together with Verizon, the World Science Festival has introduced the program to more than 40 schools in the United States. It plans to expand the program to include more schools across the country, including those in remote areas.

Creating Possibilities through Technology

Greene and his team had their reservations about the quality of the virtual reality experience via a screen using BlueJeans instead of using a headset, but they have been pleasantly surprised by the results.

"Even though you don’t have the same functionality as you do when using a headset, you can transport yourself in the same way," says Greene.

"The capacity for the individual who is participating via BlueJeans to have this dynamic perspective makes all the difference in the world. It feels like you have an iconic view of the galaxy because of the roaming nature of the virtual cameras."

As the team continues to develop more virtual reality experiences, this new format for delivering learning is expected to inspire confidence and motivate students to engage with complex scientific concepts. From understanding orbital motion and planet formation to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, BlueJeans will be integrated into these experiences going forward. Greene expects to complete the BlueJeans integration and kick off more new experiences by the end of 2023.

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