It was an open house for parents September 27 at Pullman Elementary School, but the students were scuba diving in the ocean and exploring Mars. Thanks to a donation from 1871 member company, EX3 Labs, students at the South Side school now have an entire classroom equipped with Virtual Reality goggles and more than 600 educational experiences.
The Immersive Learning Lab donation was made possible after EX3 Labs partnered with 1871’s Corporate Innovation Program and led an exploratory technology workshop for Conagra Brands, a food company that neighbors 1871 at The Merchandise Mart. 1871's Corporate Innovation Program enables companies to engage with and leverage new technologies and develop their own culture of internal innovation. Thanks to funding from Conagra, EX3 Labs was able to launch their first Immersive Learning Lab, and going forward, EX3 Labs intends to donate an Immersive Learning Lab to a Chicago Public School each time they work with a client through the 1871 Corporate Innovation Program.
At the ribbon cutting event, about 25 students joined Interim Principal Donnell Rader, representatives from Conagra, 1871 and Jordan Sterling and Adam Wisniewski of EX3 Labs, who helped the students acquaint themselves with the new VR technology and showcased programming that included tours of the human body, the solar system and the deep ocean. Jason Edgecomb, also of EX3, was intergral in facilitating the partnership and process to make sure the night was a success.
Colleen Maxwell, 1871's Business Development Manager, was on hand to celebrate the ribbon cutting as well. Her efforts, along with VP of Strategy & Business Development, Lakshmi Shenoy, helped connect Conagra and EX3 through the Corporate Innovation Program.
"I'm thrilled that 1871 was able to partner with EX3 Labs and Conagra through our Corporate Innovation Program to bring virtual reality technologies to the students of Pullman Elementary. The program is traditionally all about fostering connectivity between corporate partners and startups. But now, thanks Adam Wisniewski's vision and corporate partners like Conagra, it's also about giving back to the community. It was hard to stop smiling when I saw all of the students (and their parents) so excited about their new VR headsets - it made me really proud to be a part of this day and 1871." -- Colleen Maxwell, 1871 Business Development Manager
Wisniewski noted that the first donation of an Immersive Learning Lab was important to him, particularly because he learned to code in a Chicago-area public library. He also helped launch one of the first digital media labs in a Chicago-area library.