Innovation grant gives Lufkin high school students high-tech look at human anatomy

By Jeff Wright and Ryan Ordmandy

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LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Anatomy and physiology students in Lufkin have a new high-tech tool at their disposal to help them better understand the human body and its function well before they enter any college classroom.

Five months ago, Lufkin High School teacher Jessica Cantrell was one of the dozens of teachers across 10 campuses named as a recipient of LISD’s Prize Patrol grants. The grant serves as a bridge for teacher to invest in innovative learning projects that cannot be funded through the standard school district budget.

Cantrell’s application was for a 3-D program called Organon, based out of Australia.

“I found it online, and we were able to purchase it,” Cantrell said. “With the help of Oculus Rift and the software that we have, my kids are able to step into a virtual reality scenario with a human body with over 4,000 structures.”

There are many reasons you won’t find a cadaver inside any high school classroom, but Cantrell said the 3-D programs gives her students the ability to take a look inside the human body, as well as dissect and manipulate each anatomical region.

“Before we got this, we were just limited to having cow organs or sheep organs,” said Cantrell. “This actually allows them to have a full human body, to where they are allowed to take apart the heart, look at all of the valves inside the heart, see the size of a heart inside the chest.”

The idea is to prepare high school students for their healthcare-related careers by arming them with college-level experience well before they register for their college-level classes.

“They do have an application that adds surgery, so when they do get to college, there are actual medical campuses and medical colleges that use this for their doctors to give them a virtual space to dissect out, instead of always having access to a cadaver,” Cantrell added.

“It helps us see better, it’s a more realistic view from a point,” said Tierra Nolaseo, senior at LHS. “It’s more engaging for us. It’s really helpful.”

A Lufkin HS student navigates Organon via Oculus Rift remotes, which many students say takes quite a bit of getting used to.

Nolaseo is preparing for a career in the nursing field. She and a few of her classmates said it’s an exciting tool to have at their disposal, no matter where their careers take them.

“To me, it’s really cool because we can take parts of the body, we can dissect the body, we can learn so much about the body, and it’s up close,” said Kaylyn Coutee.

“It looks very realistic,” added Jamya Harris. “I really like it because it looks very realistic.”

Lufkin High School is the only school in the Deep East Texas area to have an up close, realistic look inside the human body. However, Cantrell said once word gets out, it’s only a matter of time before other schools benefit.

“This software offers different spaces they can work in,” Cantrell explained. “They can either work in a classroom area inside the virtual system; they can see actions and movements, so if they want to see which muscles are used into curling an arm, the y can actually see the muscles that are being used for that. They can go all the way down to the reproductive system as well.”

It’s that kind of detail that Cantrell said inspires her students to pursue healthcare-related careers with more understanding about what the demands are in the field. However, many of Cantrell’s students said the fun experience of modern technology can only benefit them so much; for them, it’s the teacher who taught them before they were taking trips into virtual reality that truly has the biggest impact on their future.

“She has a lot of passion, I can see when she teaches us,” said Nolaseo. “She’s helpful with us… she wants us to see [A&P] more clearly, so we can understand what we’re learning instead of seeing on paper or in a textbook.”

“We know we might ask a lot of questions, but she explains it, she puts it in ways that we can’t explain it,” said Coutee. “So, having her as our teacher in the program, it helps.”

The Organon program works through Oculus Rift, a 3-D virtual reality headset.

The Organon and other grant-based projects launched within Lufkin ISD were made possible by the district’s Education Foundation, which uses donations to award teachers with grants through the Prize Patrol.

On Thursday, Jan 31., Lufkin ISD will hold a Grant Showcase to allow students, teachers, and potential donors to see how donations directly impact students at Lufkin ISD. Cantrell’s Organon program will be one of the projects presented alongside four other projects from varying grade levels. The Grant Showcase will be held at the Pitser Garrison Convention Center at 5 p.m. and the event is free to the public.

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