Thursday, July 29, 2021

Daniel Robinson helps create school simulator for educators

Staff Writer | May 3, 2021 1:33 PM

MOSCOW — Daniel Robinson, from Bonners Ferry with a team of entrepreneurs from the University of Idaho, won $7,000 from the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge.

Robinson helped start Schoolhouse Simulations and is currently the lead 3D artist at 4ks

studios for the Minecraft marketplace. Utilizing a grant with expert scientists, Robinson works to spread knowledge within the community of Moscow.

According to Robinson, he was always interested in problem solving, technology, storytelling, and art.

Many of the passionate educators in Bonners Ferry were sources of inspiration for Robinson, setting up the foundation for him to grow with their inspirational teaching to pursue his passions.

At the University of Idaho, Robinson, who is majoring in virtual technology and design, expects to graduate in May.

Competing in the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge was a great experience, Robinson said.

“The team loved having the opportunity to speak with judges that are experts in the field of technology, and we gained so much knowledge on how to pitch our ideas,” he said.

He said the feedback the team received was constructive and helped to understand the networking component and work with educational organizations. All of which contributed to his team’s first-place win.

“We won first place in our track, software & technology, and received $7,000 in seed funding for our business!” Robinson said.

The team of entrepreneurs developed three different prototype simulators: classroom builder, physical classroom, and online classroom simulator.

“Our classroom builder helps teachers plan out their classrooms as a digital 3D space before having to move furniture in their physical classrooms, while the physical classroom simulator and online classroom simulator help teachers learn to manage disruptions in either a physical or online learning environment,” Robinson said.

At the end of July, Schoolhouse Simulations plans to launch the classroom builder simulation; the goal is to develop a community of educators that will help by providing feedback on what tools and features they would like to see improved or added to the simulators.

Robinson said the inspiration to the team was attending school during the pandemic and realized digital simulations could have a real, positive impact on teachers’ lives.

“We’ve all been in classes with teachers that have changed our lives for the better, so really we we’re all just excited to have the opportunity to give back to those teachers for all their hard work, and our passion for seeing this project through has only grown each day we continue to work on it,” Robinson said.

Robinson said he was motivated to develop the application by the educators who helped him and noted that not every kid has that same access due to location or other factors. The project pushed the idea that Schoolhouse Simulations can reduce the number of teachers leaving the workforce by giving them valuable and affordable tools.

“It's my hope that this reduction in teacher turnover will one day lead to classrooms where every student receives the same high-quality education I received,” Robinson said.

Robinson has taken the lead on prototyping and product development with responsibilities that include implementing the decision tree logic and facial animations based on emotional intelligence research to create fully immersive virtual products, adding functionality to simulators based on feedback received from the network of educators.

What started as a senior capstone project with Riley Merithew and Sydney Hartford, Robinson said, quickly developed into a business to support teachers.

After developing a business, Robinson stated the expansion of the team by adding Amy Huck, developing a more robust creative team.

“Through the ups and downs of such a demanding semester, our team has faced many challenges, but we always face them head on and come out stronger because of it,” he added. “Over all, working with such a passionate team of individuals has been a life-changing experience.”

Robinson said securing the grant and spreading the word about the services provided a significant relief off the team’s shoulders. “Since we started developing these simulations, [the goal is] to take them to national teaching conferences and have the opportunity to show a wider audience our ideas,” he said. “This seed funding is a big step in achieving that dream.”