Written By: Robert Cox

New Rochelle BID Donates Virtual Reality Systems

To New Rochelle High School

Equipment Used to Create Art, Other Subjects to Follow

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — New Rochelle High School students now have two cutting-edge virtual reality chambers to create unparalleled 3-dimensional works of art with augmented and virtual reality equipment that the New Rochelle Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) has donated.

Donning a pair of goggles, students are transported to a limitless number of settings, including empty space, where they use intuitive controls to draw, paint and streak in any color they can imagine. Once created, an artwork remains suspended in the virtual space for a student to walk around or through, until it is erased.

The two virtual spaces use just some of about 130 pieces of equipment the BID donated for both augmented reality and virtual reality.

“We are so thrilled to receive the AR-VR equipment,” Interim Principal Joseph Starvaggi said at an inaugural event this week attended by officials of the District, BID and City of New Rochelle to introduce the new opportunities for students. “It is the perfect technological vehicle to expand our students’ imaginations and creativity. I am confident that with the help of our skilled and dedicated teachers, our students will impress us with their inspiring creations. I just can’t wait to see what greatness comes out of this.”

District and school leaders thanked the BID for the equipment.

“I can’t express how much the BID’s support, donation, and presence here today means to the City School District of New Rochelle,” said Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo. “Students who have come through our PAVE (Performing And Visual Arts Education) program have gone on to accomplish incredible things in the performing and visual arts. This AR/VR system will open up a new world of possibilities.”

BID Board Member Al Tarantino said the organization donated the equipment as a way of building the relationship among the District, the city and BID.

“It is so important that the public sees our schools, our city and our private businesses working together to improve the quality of education for our students,” he said. “This is a fine example of the city, schools and the Business Improvement District working together to bring our students another tool to use in deciding their future careers.”

The equipment is based in the high school’s art wing where it will first be used to expand the possibilities for creative expression. Starting in September, the school will offer a half-year elective, Virtual Reality Sketchbook.

“This will provide our students with a great opportunity, access to this cutting-edge technology, where they can experience the act of creating art through virtual reality as a new medium,” said art teacher Amanda Tarantino, who was instrumental in arranging the donation. “It will engage students in an interactive learning experience and give them exposure to immersive learning and will improve technological literacy.

Students who have already worked with the equipment in a previous program offered by the BID said they appreciated the system that literally gives them new perspectives on their artwork.

“It’s different from a computer screen because you’re able to walk through it and get different views on it,” said sophomore Sydney Relkin. “You’re able to see it from different points of view, even from above or below.”

Freshman Emma Farley said the equipment could capture the interest of a student who otherwise might not be interested in art.

“Maybe you’re not good at drawing or doing realistic sketches but you’re really good at creating designs with this,” she said.

Eventually, it will be incorporated into other areas of instruction. Dr. Alex Marrero, the District’s new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction sees uses for virtual and augmented reality for all subjects.

“In world languages, imagine taking an instant trip to Barcelona,” he said. “That’s true immersion. In social studies, instead of talking and reading about what happened, let’s take a trip to the Colosseum.”

As the officials introduced the equipment, Dr. Marrero said teenagers seem to have a more intuitive grasp of how to use it — and that’s a good thing.

“The fact that our students have one step up on us is great, because we are preparing our students for careers and fields that do not exist yet,” he said. “With this, we’re ahead of the game.”