Over 660 schools to date have registered to participate in Australia's biggest school excursion to explore the Jenolan Caves using virtual reality technology as part of National Science Week that will run until August 24.
Computer scientists from CSIRO together with science education experts from 3P have created a digital platform that will give students the chance to virtually explore the surrounding environment and complete inquiry-based learning tasks to discover how the caves formed using their personalised avatar.
The virtual excursion combines 3P Learning's education platform, IntoScience, with high-definition panoramic video and 3D models of real places scanned using CSIRO's mapping technology, Zebedee, a laser tool designed to capture location information. CSIRO's technology is the first capable of mapping caves with lasers while continuously moving, which makes it more efficient and more detailed than traditional methods.
CSIRO acting flagship director of digital productivity and services, Dr Michael Bruenig, said that scientists from CSIRO originally became involved in scanning the Jenolan Caves to assist ANSTO with their research into cave formation processes that required three-dimensional maps of the caves.
"It's exciting to see our cave models now brought to life as a virtual world that students can explore and perform their own scientific investigations in," he said.
CSIRO said the technology will help make the Jenolan Caves accessible to students who are not able to visit the site, and will enable students to learn at their own pace in the online environment, including allowing them to return several times to the cave.
"Students have the freedom to explore and work through problem-based activities in exciting real-world environments. And we have only just begun — this innovation in learning has spectacular potential," said 3P Learning managing director Tim Power.
This release is the latest chapter in a long history of mapping technology innovation that has been developed by CSIRO. The organisation's Zebedee technology is currently being used by the Queensland Police to complete forensic scans of crime scenes