Schell Games receives $900k grant for HistoryMaker VR

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Pennsylvania-based Schell Games plans to further develop its virtual reality (VR) content creation tool, Histo­ry­Maker VR, following a substantial financial award from the US Department of Education.

The award of $900,000 is from the Small Business Inno­va­tion Research (SBIR) programme of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Schell Games was one of only eight to receive second-phase funding for their projects this year.

These funds will allow Schell Games to create an immersive learning tool that motivates and encour­ages middle school students to learn about history and civics in a new, engaging way.

Histo­ry­Maker VR is a playful VR puppeting tool that allows students to embody histor­ical char­ac­ters in immersive settings, record perfor­mances featuring those char­ac­ters, and share their perfor­mance files to demonstrate material mastery.

Students can select a histor­ical figure to use as a puppet and record themselves as that person while inter­acting with era-specific props. They can also upload speeches into the tool and recite them using an in-VR teleprompter.

They can choose different vantage points inside the teaching aid to watch the recording, or the student or teacher can export the recording to watch outside of VR.

Histo­ry­Maker VR can also be streamed so the entire classroom can watch and learn.

Schell Games received phase-one funding for HistoryMaker VR in 2018.

The company also previously received grants for Happy Atoms, a chemistry learning tool designed to teach molecular modeling in an intuitive, hands-on way, and HoloLAB Champions, which teaches high school students best practices for working in a chemistry lab environment.

Jesse Schell, chief executive officer of Schell Games and principal investigator of Histo­ry­Maker VR, commented: “The most recently published National Assess­ment of Educa­tional Progress report (NAEP, 2014) cites only 18 percent and 23 percent of 8th grade students performed at or above the profi­cient level in US history and civics, respec­tively. What’s more, students commonly report they find history to be boring and they lack moti­va­tion to under­stand or remember the content.”

​“The generous grant from the IES coupled with the talented Histo­ry­Maker VR devel­op­ment team could play a signif­i­cant role in helping those numbers climb in the near future by offering students an enter­taining way to learn about the past.”

A Histo­ry­Maker VR second-phase video is available to view below:

Image credit: Schell Games