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Poland receives Herkimer Diamond Mines grant for augmented-reality sandbox

July 27, 2018

POLAND – Poland students soon will be learning by playing in the sand – using augmented reality.

Herkimer Diamond Mines provided a grant to Poland Central School District to purchase equipment for an augmented-reality sandbox that will help students study geology, geography, topography, hydrology, engineering, design and more.

With an augmented-reality sandbox, images are projected down onto Kinetic Sand, which can be molded by teachers and students using their hands. As changes to the Kinetic Sand are made, the images adjust to show the slope of the landform, how water would be affected by the changes and how water alters the land over time.

“You can study it in real time,” Poland science teacher Kevin Ford said.

Ford applied for the about $2,000 grant from Herkimer Diamond Mines and received it during a grand opening celebration on June 13 for the Herkimer Diamond Mines KOA Resort’s new Miners’ Village. Grants were also awarded to West Canada Valley and Frankfort-Schuyler.

A fire in October 2017 caused major damage at the Herkimer Diamond Mines. The business stayed open and planned renovations including a Miners’ Village with an educational wing. The grand opening included Renee Scialdo-Shevat, the president and owner, as well as local officials and former Major League Baseball pitcher Tommy John.

“Thank you to the Herkimer Diamond Mines and their owner, Renee Scialdo-Shevat,” Ford said. “She is placing a lot of emphasis on education.”

Equipment needed for the augmented-reality sandbox includes a gaming computer, short-throw project, X-Box Kinect system and Kinetic Sand, Ford said. The hope is to start using the sandbox sometime during the 2018-19 school year, he said.

The sandbox idea is something Ford had been talking about with Poland Technology Coordinator Phillip Gogol, and the grant will help it become a reality at Poland.

Students can either use the augmented-reality sandbox directly – such as for studying topography in earth science – or it can be used for demonstrations to other students.

“The goal is for it to be used throughout the entire building,” Ford said.

Another example of how the sandbox can be used is for engineering and designing – by watching the effects of flooding and erosion and determining whether a landform would be safe to build on, Ford said.

“It’s a great thing for students to be able to use,” he said.