Four seventh graders from Sonora Middle School pioneered a project to allow retirement home residents to relive cherished memories

EAST is a program implemented in over 200 schools throughout Arkansas allowing students to use the latest technology to benefit their community and attempt to solve local problems.

The Sonora EAST director, Derek Ratchford, decided to allow his students the freedom to investigate potential ideas as well as confront issues that may come their way, whether they be technological, circumstantial or even legal.

Adam Teakell, Alyssa Wilson, Brayden Hamilton and Kylee Dunn got the idea to use virtual reality technology to benefit retirement community residents.

Wilson, who was volunteering at retirement community Rocking Chair Inn, noticed that the details in stories certain residents would recount would change with each telling, and wondered if it would be possible for the residents to relive those memories.

Dunn and Wilson took the initiative by asking residents what places and years they would most like to relive, explaining that they would record a 360-degree video that could be viewed through virtual reality headsets.

After gathering as many details as they could from the residents, the ambitious quartet filmed what they could locally.

Teakell and Hamilton took responsibility for the technological aspects, editing the footage and uploading it to YouTube.

Back To The Past a success for all involved

David Dickinson, a retired University of Arkansas professor, was overjoyed with the virtual reality video of the classroom he had taught in. “I felt like I was back in the school days again,” he said after watching it.

The four students presented their Back To The Past project at EAST Night Out to a crowd of approximately 300 people.

Ratchford and the quartet will also attend the Facebook Techstart Tour Stop at the University of Arizona to showcase their project there.

The students are continuing to film and edit more videos for the residents of the Rocking Chair Inn.