A student-designed solution is improving the physical therapy experience for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta patients.
The Mount Vernon School’s Virtual Reality (VR) team was among 60 presenters at the annual Virtual Medicine (vMed) Conference in Los Angeles last week. Presenting details on a VR experience for pediatric patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the VR team shared design and development considerations that have resulted in documented patient improvement and success over the last five years.
Established in 2018, The Island was designed and developed by Mount Vernon Upper School students, for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, to be used as both a distraction from pain and a way to encourage patients to use their bodies during physical therapy sessions. The first iteration of The Island was presented to Children’s in January 2020. The experience included hearing seagulls squawking and waves crashing, along with the ability to interact with beach balls, treasure chests, and ‘pick up’ buckets on the ground. A beach carnival provided users with additional opportunities to move and interact with carnival games. Over the last 5 years, patient response and data collected by physical therapists using the program have resulted in ongoing optimizations of The Island by Mount Vernon students.
Working on the Mount Vernon/Children’s program has provided invaluable experience for all students involved. The original student team responsible for developing the first Island experience included Justin Blumencranz, Mount Vernon Class of 2021. Justin is currently at Stanford University and co-authoring the revised Python course reader for Code In Place, Stanford’s online international coding course. Other team members have gone on to Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Belmont University. In addition to the CHOA program, the current VR team is also designing and conducting research about how VR might increase the quality of life for hospice patients and is bringing virtual reality to nursing home residents to increase joy.