Piloting the use of virtual reality video of research laboratories as a public engagement tool in secondary school students in Kilifi, Coastal Kenya
Patience Kiyuk – Centre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast. Kenya
Alun Davies – Oxford University United Kingdom
Samson Kinyanjui – Oxford University United Kingdom
Cynthia Mauncho – Centre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast Kenya
Noni Mumba – Centre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast Kenya
Solomon Mutuku – Centre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast Kenya
Grace Mwango – Centre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast Kenya
George Nduva – Centre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast Kenya
Virtual Reality (VR) is poised to profoundly transform the way science is communicated to the general public. Although relatively new, VR has been used in Europe to promote understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) through projects such as Labstar which gives students access to a realist laboratory experience to conduct experiments risk-free. However, there is no documented evidence of using VR either for STEM education or for school engagement in sub-Saharan Africa. We aimed to produce a virtual reality video tour of the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) laboratories and test its suitability as an engagement tool in secondary school students.
A group of 14 students from various secondary schools but residents of Kilifi County were invited for a guided tour of the KWTRP laboratories. Thereafter split into three groups to discuss their understanding of the tour and, importantly, what they found relatable to what they were learning in school. That discussion formed part of the script used to shoot a 360-degree video of the laboratories. The video captures simplistically the overall basic research conducted at the KWTRP, demonstration of various experiments, different researchers working at their stations, and short interviews with scientists.
We report on the participatory process of preparing a VR video, and the step is to show the video at schools to students using the VR headsets. Feedback questionnaires and focus group discussion data will provide insights into student views and acceptability of virtual reality for public engagement. By communicating science through VR, we hope to spread awareness and increase appreciation of research by the public.
The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.