After launching a first-of-its-kind partnership with Facebook, Arkansas announced Monday it is expanding the tech giant’s Techstart program to bring virtual reality (VR) education to every public high school in the state.
The original partnership, announced in January, marked the first time Facebook had developed such a relationship with a state. Facebook has donated VR classroom kits to about 250 Arkansas high schools, focusing particularly on schools with students from low-income households, educational co-ops and STEM education centers. The kits come with computers, cameras and Oculus Rift headsets.
Under the expanded partnership, announced by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, all of Arkansas’ more than 360 public high schools will now receive a VR classroom kit, as well as an Oculus Rift touch controller and 30 virtual reality viewers.
“We are appreciative to Facebook for its continued efforts to generate excitement for STEM fields in Arkansas high schools,” Hutchinson said in an official statement. “Facebook’s generous donation will provide Arkansas’ students with an exciting learning platform that will allow them to have fun while sharpening their computer science skills and exploring STEM careers.
“Students who utilize this incredible platform will be well-positioned to succeed in our increasingly technology driven economy,” he said.
Arkansas has taken an aggressive role in integrating technology with education across the state. Just last month, the state achieved its two-year goal of delivering high-speed broadband to all public K-12 schools, charter schools and educational co-ops.
Facebook’s Techstart program, which launched in 2015, aims to connect students with an engaging, rigorous computer science education in hopes of getting more young people interested in STEM careers.
Some Arkansas high schools will receive more than one VR classroom kit. Under the agreement, Techstart will donate 550 VR kits total to the state’s public high schools. Arkansas will be responsible for distributing the educational technology.