Earlier this month we attended Augmented World Expo, AWE and one of the most interesting companies was Exponential Destiny.

Exponential Destiny is a youth lead, educational non-profit organization based in South Central Los Angeles. They are using VR and other new technology to try to provide mentorship and entrepreneurial training to public school students and organizations serving under-resourced communities. They provide immersive VR experiences that foster learning, creativity, and personal growth as well as teach students to create VR experiences.

VR has traditionally struggled to find a viable scientific evidence for working in education but it does create a sense of wonder. And that kind of wonder and energy is something that can energize young people.

Exponential Destiny’s work in schools revolves around using the power of virtual reality to enhance the learning experience. They provide VR headsets and tailored content to allow students to dive into immersive virtual worlds and create that sense of wonder. They have all the traditional VR Ed demos like exploring ancient civilizations, dissecting virtual organisms, and conducting virtual science experiments. The hope is to get students engaged in interactive educational experiences that might deepen their understanding but really ignite their curiosity.  

They provided virtual field trips that took students to historical sites, museums, and cultural landmarks worldwide. At Crenshaw Charter High School, students participated in a virtual science experiment where they had to solve a fictional environmental crisis, working together in teams, applying scientific principles, and making informed decisions to address the issue. At Jefferson Elementary School, teachers attended a VR training workshop where they learned how to incorporate virtual experiences into their classroom.

It is ultimately unclear whether the introduction of VR has a measurable increase on the students’ long term curiosity about the subject, but it does introduce students to the kind of VR experiences that many of these kids wouldn’t have had otherwise. Anecdotally it might not be dissimilar to the stories Bill Gates tells about the GE computer in his 8th grade school. We’ll just have to wait 10 years to find out how and where that impact is felt the strongest.

Their biggest success seems to be in the young people who are leaders of the project, most of whom are under 25 and some are still college students. Their team includes Marco Vargas, co-founder and President of the company, Pablo Gonzales, and Samantha Aguilar Araujo.

Marcus Shingles is CEO and he mentors the younger members of his team. He wants to make it clear In interviews that the younger people are running the interactions with students and he believes that the reason Exponential Destiny can be effective is because most of his team is close in age to the students. Many of them graduated from the high schools where they are working.

Recently Exponential Destiny has been expanding its reach. Last year they partnered with the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, to hold a  competition called The SDG Metaverse prize. They invited student-age teams from around the world  to create an immersive, experiential, and interactive environment in virtual reality (VR) to bring awareness and education to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Last month they announced the winners at the United Nations headquarters. 

It is hard to judge what will motivate the next generation of artists who will be working with VR. True creation and “the next big thing” can come from almost anywhere and giving every student the opportunity to see and experience new technologies is an important goal in and of itself. It is possible that the most important thing Exponential Destiny is doing is inspiring the young people who work there. But they definitely remember how their teachers inspired them. And that can be very touching.

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