PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Piloting the use of virtual reality video of research laboratories as a public engagement tool in secondary school students in Kilifi, Coastal Kenya

Patience KiyukCentre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast. Kenya


  • Alun DaviesOxford University   United Kingdom
  • Samson KinyanjuiOxford University   United Kingdom
  • Cynthia MaunchoCentre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast   Kenya
  • Noni MumbaCentre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast   Kenya
  • Solomon MutukuCentre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast   Kenya
  • Grace MwangoCentre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast   Kenya
  • George NduvaCentre 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.

Category: Visual presentation
Theme: Technology