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home : columns : dave fjeld
September 22, 2017

9/7/2017 8:56:00 AM
New ZSpace Lab wowed this ancient scribe
Let me put this column in perspective: I still recall when Donna and I purchased our first computer, a Radio Shack unit that ran very basic things.
Actually, it was more of a computer "game" than a real computer.
When we graduated to a computer that could actually do some serious work, I was in awe. I remember we had an encyclopedia on CD that brought up spectacular photos and even some impressive short videos and animated diagrams that left this writer believing that nothing could get better than this.
Yeah, I was wrong.
Proof of that came last week when Windom Area High School Principal Jake Tietje took me on a little tour of the new technology the school has purchased for the 2017-18 school year.
He showed me the new Growlab in the ag department. For starters, I had never seen the floor of the old shop shine like it did when he opened the door. I won't go so far as to say you could eat off it, but I would have had no problem with the five-second rule. The room had received a fresh coat of paint and the 10 new growing towers had been assembled and were ready for connection.
The growing towers reminded me of our trip to Epcot Center at Disney World, 15 or 20 years ago. We went through "The Land" ride/exhibit, which took us through a hydroponic growing area where plants and vegetables were growing out of these spools suspended from the ceiling.
It was incredible.
Little did I realize that 20 years later, something very similar to that will now be growing in our school's agriculture lab. I'll try to keep you posted throughout the year to see how the Growlab is, well, growing. And it will grow, because 20 more towers will be added to the lab in two more phases.
Stay tuned.
On to the ZSpace Lab
Then Tietje took me to the science department where, if I was wowed by the Growlab, I was going to become like a kid in a candy store with the ZSpace Lab.
I had heard and thought I vaguely understood what Tietje and Superintendent Wayne Wormstadt had shared with the Windom school board concerning the new ZSpace Lab. Once I saw it in operation, I realized I actually had no idea what this technology was capable of.
Science teachers Jeff Huska and Travis Martin happen to be in the room at the time and were more than a little eager to give me a hands-on demonstration of their newest piece of technology.
They brought me over to one of the 10 computers placed at lab stations around the room, turned on the computer and soon a home screen appeared.
He gave me a pair of the 3D glasses that are required to view the computer screen, then handed me the stylus.
Once I clicked on the stylus, a laser beam appeared. Jeff said, "Grab the heart in the corner and drop it into the center."
I did so and suddenly there was a beating human heart on the screen - no, make that suspended in mid air. Using the stylus, not only could I pull the heart out of the screen, but I could turn it from side to side and upside down and also feel the heart beating in the stylus.
Yes, I truly was a little kid in a candy store.
You could click on different things that allowed you to look inside different chambers of the heart and more fully understand exactly how the heart operates - in 3D.
I hadn't seen anything yet.
Then, Jeff opened up an anatomy program that brought up the entire human body, from head to toe. Again, the holder of the stylus could grab the body and virtually pull it out of the monitor and, again, rotate the body and look at the human body in almost every way imaginable.
Click on one feature and you can see the muscular system. In fact, click on a particular muscle and it's identified in a box on the left side of the screen.
Click on another feature and the muscles go away and you see the circulatory system. Again, you can see the entire circulatory system from head to toe.
You could zoom in and take a very close look at any part of the body you desired.
I was absolutely in awe.
I think Jeff got as big a kick out of watching me get a kick out of the program.
He said he only wished/hoped that his kids would respond the same way. However, knowing how much technology today's students have access to and the capabilities of that technology, he's not expecting his students to react the same way I did.
Well, at least he got to see one excited individual - even if he's well past the student stage.
Students today really don't know how good they have it.

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