Juntos Visits the iCenter

students work with virtual reality technology in iCenter
Thursday, July 25, 2019

young man stands near large computer screen talking to studentsRecently, the iCenter welcomed a group of students from Juntos that visited the Green Square building and learned a little more about the iCenter and the Department of Environmental Quality. Juntos is a program organized through NC State University that works with Latino students in grades eight through 12 and their families to encourage them to graduate high school and help them to pursue higher education. As part of a summer program, students were given the opportunity to learn more about what it’s like working in state government and spent their time in the iCenter learning about how we encourage innovation in North Carolina.

The day began with an address from DEQ Assistant Secretary for Environment Sheila Holman, during which she spoke about hailing from a rural county and being the first in her family to attend college, and how that path has helped shape her career. Keynote speaker Ursula Hairston, DEQ Human Resources Director, shared a few words of wisdom about how to find a career path that is the best fit. She encouraged the students to think about what they love to do and why, and encouraged them to pursue their passions through their careers. She also reminded the group that it is okay to fail or change your mind or career path, and she noted that staying true to yourself and your passions will lead to success. The group then divided, with half of the group learning more about DEQ in a panel discussion and the other half joining iCenter Director Deante Tyler, iCenter Innovation Analyst Brennan Rufa, and iCenter Interns Harrison Jordan and Hannah Caison to learn more about the iCenter. 

young woman stands near large computer screen talking to studentsIn the breakout session, the iCenter team shared their backgrounds with the Juntos students and reminded them of the importance of choosing the path to higher education that best fits their needs and interests. The team also shared that although they themselves had followed different paths – from community college transfer programs and technical programs, to universities and graduate programs – they had all found their way to their roles at the iCenter. The team set up three stations to showcase a few of the innovations that the center is currently pursuing. This gave the students the opportunity to learn more about iCenter initiatives and get hands on experience. One station showcased the strides the center is making in using 360-degree photography. The students learned about the NC360 project that allows for a virtual 360-degree tour of many different landmarks in our beautiful state. The students and team discussed ways that these virtual tours of the state might encourage people to visit physical landmarks, help those considering a relocation to North Carolina get a better feel for the state, or simply allow people all over the world to get a taste of what the state has to offer. At this station, the students were able to use several different types of 360 cameras to take their own photos.  

young woman surrounded by students wears virtual reality headsetA second station allowed students to learn about opportunities that the iCenter is currently researching using virtual reality technology. The team noted that virtual reality makes it possible to allow for training and simulations in situations that would be too dangerous to replicate in real life, including disaster response and emergency management. The team discussed with the students how creating immersive training experiences in virtual reality can help make everything from on-the-job training to cultural sensitivity training more impactful. The students were then given the opportunity to use a virtual reality headset to better understand how truly immersive this experience can be. The students were able to connect a 360-degree camera to the virtual reality headset and get a sense of how someone wearing the headset could "see" a location even if they were not physically there. Dean Grantham, a representative of DEQ's IT team, joined them for a third station to discuss how DEQ is using drones to capture aerial footage of coastal landscapes, and how drones can save time and produce better quality images than older methods. The students had the opportunity to view photos and videos taken by DEQ’s drones and see one of those drones on display. This allowed students to see how an innovative idea can become a program that the state actually implements.  

The day ended with a lunch in the iCenter, giving the students the opportunity to reflect on their experience. DEQ Public Engagement Liaison Carolina Jimenez, who organized the Juntos visit, said, "...the most amazing part was seeing the kids be inspired by the staff and watching their interactions. We hope that this visit opens their eyes to new opportunities.". We are pleased that we got to share some of the exciting work we do here at the iCenter and enjoyed getting to meet the students from Juntos. 

Interested in having a student group visit the iCenter? Reach out to us at icenter@nc.gov, we'd love to hear from you!