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Here’s what happened when we showed Index augmented reality apps to high school engineers

At Index AR Solutions, our aim is to transform industries around the world through the development of custom-built augmented reality applications that can be used with off-the-shelf hardware such as smartphones and tablets to create new efficiencies, empower workers and drive profits.

Along the way, the Index team is looking to pique the interest of the next generation of augmented reality developers and users.

We recently hosted three future engineers from Warhill High School, a four-year public school of about 1,100 students here in Williamsburg. We were very impressed with the caliber of these three students, their teacher, John Aughenbaugh who made the visit with them, their accomplishments and their future plans.

The students shared with us and gave us a demonstration of their impressive robotics work and how they had used a 3D printer to economically and expertly manufacture chassis for their robotic vehicles. They saved thousands of dollars with their ingenious and inventive solution — they would fit right in at Index!

Warhill is affiliated with “Project Lead the Way,” a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for K-12 students and teachers across the U.S.

Through pathways in computer science, engineering and biomedical science, students learn problem-solving strategies, critical and creative thinking and how to communicate and collaborate. Project Lead the Way touts itself as “shaping the innovators, creators and designers of today and tomorrow.”

Bradley Turner, a Warhill senior who is leaning toward attending Virginia Tech and majoring in engineering or music — he plays trombone — said he knew a little bit about augmented reality before visiting the Index AR Solutions office. His closest experience with augmented reality was when he was younger he had a Legos set with a downloadable app in which you could see a little Legos character walking around.

Turner said he had watched Index videos of its augmented reality solutions. But being able to experience augmented reality firsthand with Index iPads and apps makes all the difference in understanding its scope, power and results.

“When you touch it and feel it and look at it as opposed to a video it makes more sense,” Turner said.

It’s true. We know from experience that unless you put augmented reality in people’s hands, they don’t get it

Turner said the afternoon at Index AR Solutions helped him understand how augmented reality is thought up and created, as well as its complexity. It’s one step short of holograms, he said.

“It’s very cool to see hands on,” Turner said.

Lauren Dansereau, a Warhill senior, plans to further her education studying computer game design at George Mason University. Dansereau said she learned about augmented reality last year at an event at Christopher Newport University.

“My mind was just like blown,” she said. “I was thinking, `Well why didn’t people think of this earlier?’”

Anthony Tarantino, a junior, was the one Warhill student visiting the Index office who didn’t know much about augmented reality and what to expect. He was impressed by its efficiencies and potential uses.

“It can help with education so there’s a broad spectrum of uses for it,” Tarantino said.

Aughenbaugh liked the utility and accessibility of the Index augmented reality apps. He compared it to virtual reality and how when a person is done using virtual reality, you’re still in an empty room.

Augmented reality is “developing a skill that is so important,” he said.

Aughenbaugh envisions augmented reality as a training opportunity in workforce development and education. “Why not start that even in primary or secondary schools and college? We’d be crazy not to do it,” he said.

We couldn’t agree more. Hosting the Warhill students opened our eyes at Index to the possibility of partnerships in education and project-learning. It also opened our eyes to how bright our engineering future is with students like Turner, Dansereau and Tarantino.