SXSW EDU launch winner Inspirit creates interactive 3D science models for student exploration
Tim Newcomb | May 20, 2021
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STEM-focused education startup Inspirit wants high schoolers to have access to accurate, interactive 3D scientific models. And with its newly released, award-winning app, students can explore, learn and discuss the parts of the body and other biological subjects in a wholly immersive way.
The app contains more than 1,000 3D models created specifically for the company. So if, for example, students are exploring the respiratory system, the app’s 3D model of lungs, trachea and alveoli can be virtually rotated and be pulled apart. Students can click on different points of the model to answer questions and learn biological functions. By answering questions correctly, they earn a score and pass levels.
“Our hope is to eventually cover all of STEM,” says co-founder Amrutha Vasan. “Biology is just the launching point for thousands of models of the human body and plants. So many 3D models just aren’t accurate, but we have a content team of teachers that note down exactly what models need to look like.”
Vasan describes the app as Duolingo meeting Minecraft, allowing students to both learn processes and experiment. Students can download and explore the 3D models for free, choosing sections that interest them or support in-school learning. Teachers can also access them through any web browser.
“Our goal is to improve accessibility and increase curiosity in STEM education,” Vasan says. “So many students drop STEM, and there is a group unable to visualize certain topics. Teachers and students don’t have the tools they need. We found something accessible, solving the students’ problems first.”
The app’s April debut came on the heels of Inspirit winning the 2021 SXSW EDU Online Launch competition, opening the potential for new funding sources. The Atlanta-based company started after founders Vasan and Aditya Vishwanath met as undergraduates at Georgia Tech, studying the best ways to bring immersive technology into the classroom.
Vasan says that as she worked with local students, she realized even simple 360-degree videos increased their educational engagement and interest. And as Vishwanath moved to work on his Ph.D. in Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, the pair decided that no good solution existed for video-based interactive STEM education, as many products were taking a 2D concept and simply tweaking it to call it 360-degree content. Vasan then formed a team in India to create the biology-focused 3D animations.
In an effort to grow the company and bring students into the fold, Vasan has opened internship opportunities for high schoolers. “We think high school students have some of the best ideas,” she says. “This is an app for them, so we think it should be built by them.”
Bella Monsalve, a junior at Castilleja High School in Palo Alto, California, is one of those summer interns. “By shifting to online learning all year, it has been hard to fully experience subjects like science because labs make the learning experience much more effective,” she says. “Inspirit allows students to really dive deep into topics.”
Vasan says they want to also create a community where students interested in stem can come together. A “discord community” exists on the company’s website, a place for students to ask questions about STEM. She hopes to create workshops, study sessions and in-person events, and “bring back that summer camp feel into biology for high school students.” Eventually, new app features include allowing students into the same virtual lab at the same time, teaching each other.
Disclosure: 2021 SXSW EDU Online Launch competition is presented by the Walton Family Foundation, which provides financial support to LA School Report’s parent company, The 74 Media.