Kids tackle education software

By Linda Kim
STAFF WRITER                                       SAN FRANCISCO

earing a helmet-like visor covering his eyes, Christopher Gee, 10, moved his head as if he were fishing for something.

But the fifth-grader from Cornerstone Academy in San Francisco was only trying out a 3-D educational program focusing on floods. He took off the visor and smiled to his three friends leaning against the railing.

"I think its cool," he said.

To Gee, it was just a game. But VRQuest™ creator, Warren Black, who designed the virtual reality program, wants students to think about what steps need to be taken to solve the problems of a flood or other environmental disasters.

"Most of virtual reality is violent games," said Warren Black, found of VR Quest in . " We want to take virtual reality to a whole new arena" in education.

VRQuest™ was one of 180 educational software exhibitors demonstrating their products at the Children’s Interactive Expo at Fort Mason’s cavernous Herbst Pavilion Thursday.

About 1,500 participants – mostly students’ grade K to 12 – from the Bay Area, including Berkeley, Oakland, San Mateo and San Rafael, swarmed the first day of the event. The Expo is expected to draw 28,000 participants over four days.

The Expo is a highlight of Interactive Media Week, a week set aside to promote technological literacy and the Bay Area’s role as the hub of interactive innovation.

"The goal was to get student input in the products," said Shannon Tobin, president of Wassadamo, LLC., which produced the event.

The Expo is a chance for the software companies to not only get feedback from students, but also to show off and sell their product to educators.

Companies that demonstrated their wares included Berkeley-based Wildcat Canyon Software which produces Autoscore software used to compose music. Digital Frog International makes a CD- ROM that allows students to explore the dissection, anatomy and ecology of a frog. Edmark manufactures such titles, as Mighty Math and Thinkin’ Things.

The first two days of the Expo are devoted to students and educators. The public in invited Saturday and Sunday, Admission for adults is $5, students $2.

Oakland Tribune, Business Section, October 3, 1997