VR comes to Arkansas public schools under new partnership with Facebook


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Facebook’s Techstart education program is coming to Arkansas’ schools, the company and the state announced Thursday.

With the agreement between Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Facebook, the company will provide 500 virtual reality classroom kits that include computers, cameras and the Oculus Rift headsets. The partnership is the first of its kind between Facebook and a state, Hutchinson said.

“Given Governor Hutchinson’s commitment to computer science education and establishing coding opportunities to Arkansas classrooms, bringing Techstart to the Natural State just made sense,” Erin Egan, Facebook’s vice president of U.S. public policy, said in the release.

The joint announcement was also broadcast on Facebook Live.

VR kits will be distributed to approximately 250 schools — with a focus on high schools with high percentages of low-income students; educational co-ops; and STEM education centers. The state Department of Education’s Computer Science Division and the Arkansas Public Resource Center will select which schools are to receive the kits and distribute them.

“Facebook’s generous donation will both excite and empower Arkansas students to sharpen their computer science skills and to explore STEM careers,” Hutchinson said in the release. “Students who utilize this incredible platform will be positioned to succeed in our increasingly technology-driven economy.”

The Techstart partnership is just the latest in Arkansas’ efforts to boost technology’s influence in state schools. The state’s Department of Information Systems has connected more than 200 schools across the state with internet bandwidth reaching 200 kbps per user.

Launched in late 2015, Techstart is Facebook’s effort to connect high school students to technology that teaches and inspires, according to the program’s about page. Among the participants of the program are schools in Chicago, Northern California, New York and Washington, D.C.

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Arkansas, Broadband, Education & STEM, Emerging Technology, Facebook, Innovation, workforce