Cardboard Learning

Virtual Reality Education

Photo of Rohit Mehta
17 13

Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

June 19, 2001

Where are you located:

Based in Santa Rosa, CA. Impacting Austin Creek Elementary School and hopefully more schools in the future!

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Date Started

May 21, 2017

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

For as long as I can remember, I've been learning via reading. Early on, I identified more as a visual learner than as one who learns better by reading. Because of this, I often struggled to focus while reading passages or textbooks that I was supposed to glean information from. As my journey through the schooling system continued and I found myself in high school, I began to finally learn how to efficiently read and maintain concentration long enough to understand the topic. I now became a "hybrid" learner; one who preferred a mixed medium of information, partly visual and partly through reading. However, as I looked around me, I saw scores of fellow students unable to make that transition. I quickly realized that the overwhelming dependence on just one way of learning was negatively impacting the education of these students, so I set out to improve upon existing methods of education.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The purpose of my project is simple: to improve the quality of education students receive in elementary school. I know many kids often have trouble comprehending material by reading walls of text or watching loosely related documentaries, so my aim is to make learning fun and approachable by merging visual and traditional learning. Instead of simply watching videos or reading textbooks, virtual reality allows kids to experience what they learn.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Cardboard Learning utilizes Google Expeditions software on smartphones paired with cardboard virtual reality headsets to enhance learning. The problem is that kids often are not receptive to information delivered through traditional means. To solve this, I coordinate with teachers at the school to carefully select lessons on Google Expeditions so that they correlate with the school curriculum. For instance, a class in the midst of the Aztec history unit would be able to go on a "VR field trip" that transports them to the site of Aztec ruins. This way, the class uses virtual reality learning not only for enjoyment but for reinforcement of concepts and ideas found in the curriculum. Of course, simply experiencing a virtual reality field trip is not the most effective way to learn; I found through class surveys conducted after VR field trips at Austin Creek Elementary School that students preferred learning about the subject through virtual reality accompanied by complementary learning materials such as brief summaries of the information. With my approach, I believe students will be able to understand the material much better by experiencing rather than passively watching or reading.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Two weeks ago, I conducted the first official "VR field trip" at Austin Creek Elementary School. The topic we were exploring was underwater wildlife and the great barrier reef. As the expedition started, oohs and aahs from the class of 32 were audible. The entire class swiveled their heads left and right to look at the various things Ms. Brady, the teacher, pointed out, and excitement filled the air. The amazing thing about this experience, however, was the fact that everyone was engrossed in the VR experience all while learning about underwater life just as the curriculum stated. In fact, Ms. Brady mentioned to me later that she had never seen her class more engaged than during the expedition. This is precisely the difference; through introducing virtual reality learning, my project helps to engage the students and make learning truly interesting, all from the comfort of the classroom.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

The obvious program that does something similar to what I'm doing is Google Expeditions itself; they offer VR kits to schools and encourage the introduction of virtual reality learning to elementary and middle schools. In fact, they just launched 100 AR tours a day ago in addition to the 800 VR tours they have developed. What's different about my project, however, is that my project is built on donations rather than profits. My primary goal is to benefit the local and eventually other communities, not just to create the software. I may not be coding the software but I'm surely implementing it.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

So far, I've held 2 full classroom expeditions at Austin Creek Elementary School. This was made possible through a year-long effort to collect donations, ultimately resulting in multiple phone donations from parents in the community and monetary donations that went toward buying phones and VR headsets. I've gathered 10 smartphones and 10 VR headsets so far, amounting to about $1.5k worth of donations. This has been put to good use. The 2 expeditions were held in 2 6th grade classes at the school and about 65 kids in total experienced VR learning. The topics explored were Under the Sea and US Monuments, both of which were part of the curriculum and immensely enjoyed by students. I have attached a picture of a thank you note from the 6th grade classes that I received just a few days ago. The project will be fully launched next school year, completely aligned with the curriculum.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

I had students complete quizzes after the VR expedition and the answers were compared to those from students who learned the same material through a reading. One class experienced "Under the Sea" through VR, while the other read about it, and vice versa for US Monuments. I crafted these questions to test how general understanding, enjoyment, enjoyment and the ability to recall small details were affected. I also held a session at the end of each VR field trip where students were able to give suggestions. This summer, I'll analyze all this data and research on the best way to completely integrate VR into the curriculum. Also, VR will officially become part of the 6th grade experience at Austin Creek from the 2018-19 school year onward.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

To make my vision a reality, more funding is needed. Like I stated earlier, I have only gathered 10 smartphones and headsets through donations. Although sharing VR headsets in groups of 2 or 3 wasn't a complete disaster in the 2 expeditions I headed, it is evident that a full amount of 30 phones and headsets is needed to stabilize this project. Also, with my plans to expand to other nearby schools in the future, I will need more funding and more help so that the project isn't a one-man-show. It took one year for me to gather enough donations to make the current status of my project a reality, although it was a tough financial year with funds primarily going toward fire relief in my area. More funding is needed to make my vision a reality.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Family support
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

For this project, I first approached the principal of Austin Creek Elementary School in May 2017, proposing the idea of VR learning to her. She was my 6th grade teacher back in my day, so I felt comfortable with approaching her first. Since then, I've been in constant contact with her, the president of the parents association of the school, and both the 6th grade teachers. They've helped me immensely in organizing fundraisers at the school relating to Cardboard Learning, holding test runs, and eventually organizing the first VR expeditions just a few weeks ago. A partnership that I am still lacking, however, is one with someone who is connected to a corporation or entity that would be able to elevate the magnitude of my project. In other words, I need connections with people who have the power to make a difference. They might not even have the money to donate themselves, but they certainly have the willpower to bring change. An example of a changemaker who I would love to work with would be one who has experience gathering significant donations and knows how to market ideas with the intent of raising funds.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media


Join the conversation:

Photo of Claudia Gourdet

Hello Rohit,

Congratulations on advancing to the Top 100 stage! I really like the work you are doing and how you incorporate VR learning and exposing

Photo of Ariyan Miller

Hey There Fellow Changemaker,

Congrats on moving to the next phase. I wishing you the best of luck ! & I am sending love and light to all the positive things that you do.

Photo of Rohit Mehta

Thank you for the well wishes!

Photo of Kim Solem

Rohit, what a great project. Pretty amazing that you have fundraised for the software and technology to bring this great VR learning experience to kids. I'd love to see more on your financial plan to take this to scale; have you approached Google for funding, or some of the smartphone manufacturers? I imagine there are other youth STEM organizations that are working on funding VR in classrooms; you may want to reach out to them. I'd also encourage you to look at crowd-based fundraising sites for teachers like That is a great way for the class to post information about the project and ask for donations. Keep up the great work - it will be fun to watch your progress!

Photo of Rohit Mehta

Hey Kim,

Wow, thanks for introducing me to DonorsChoose, I had no idea something like this existed specifically for teachers and classrooms!

I did approach many major companies for funding (such as Google, Apple, service provider companies etc) but was not able to get any help from them. I think one of the major problems I faced was lack of connections; I merely emailed the support/outreach department of these companies because I did not know anyone who worked there or had influence there, which I think was a reason for the disappointing responses I received, some even half a year after I originally emailed them. My only sources of funding were parents in the community and local companies.

Thanks for the well wishes!

Photo of Elizabeth Hooper

I love the idea for integrating the learning styles! Have you considered how this medium might be integrated beyond geographical learning? i.e. how it can be implemented in science or humanities?

Photo of Rohit Mehta

Hey, thanks for the input!

Absolutely. My plans for next school year include aligning VR completely with the curriculum, even for science and humanities. Examples of VR expeditions integration with science would be an expedition to the insides of lungs, explaining step by step the workings of the respiratory system.

Photo of Phillip Mathew

I am able to relate to this project greatly because I'm a visual learner, as well. I agree that education can and should be improved in elementary schools. I hope you reach great success with your Cardboard learning project.

Photo of Rohit Mehta

Thank you for the well wishes! I greatly appreciate it and will do my best to continue to grow the project.

Photo of Brittany Corner

My Project assists students in securing college loans, do you believe that there could be VR implications for higher as well as primary education?

Photo of Rohit Mehta

Yeah, VR could be used and is being used in higher education too, albeit a bit sparingly. The problem with using it in higher education such as high school or college, however, is that it may not cover concepts or ideas in enough detail or thoroughness as is required at that level of education. For example, learning the basics of cells or something could be learned effectively by 6th graders, but learning about complex high school level ideas surrounding how the cell functions would be better off taught through traditional textbooks.

If a more comprehensive style of VR teaching is developed in the future, however, I think VR learning would be beneficial even in higher grades.

Photo of Vasya T

Hey! My project is about fire detection...maybe we could use your VR technology to teach children more effective fire safety?

Photo of Rohit Mehta

Definitely! I checked and Google Expeditions doesn't have a lesson specifically on fire safety, but I found this on Google:
This is a tour through a house that experienced a fire, complete with pointers on how to ensure safety. This could potentially be used or we could create our own VR lesson (although that would be hard) and we could educate kids at my local elementary school and more on fire safety.

Photo of John

Are you planning to expand to other schools or are you just going to stick to one school in the near future?

Photo of Rohit Mehta

Well, it all depends on funding. My ideal plan would be to grow to all the schools in the local school district and then expand from there, but it really depends on the funding I get. So far I've received enough funding to collect 10 smartphones and VR kits. I'm going to need a lot more to have 20-30 for each school in my district and so on. I am certainly trying my best to expand, however!

Photo of Ishwar

Rohit Mehta Amazing idea. Introducing STEM in the form of VR is the next step to education and I am excited to see the development of this project.

Photo of Rohit Mehta

Thank you!