Cincinnati, OH – December 30, 2011 – On January 6 & 7, 2011, students from ten local high schools will convene at the University of Cincinnati Tangeman Center with laptops in hand. For two days, these students will engage in hands-on learning, immersed in the design and development of virtual reality environments at the first Virtual Reality Education Pathfinders (VREP) Institute. VREP is a national scale initiative designed to bring together high school students in unique learning environments to spark career possibilities using virtual reality, 3D technology. In this unique environment, the trained student "Guides" provide the two-day training to the participating students or "Pathfinders." Virtual Reality technology keeps them connected in a private, secure space, so they can collaborate and learn together as well as share and distribute their creations. The goal is to train as many skilled VR programmers as possible to create as many educationally relevant applications tied to state and national standards. The students will work from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. both days at the UC Tangeman Center facilities. VREP is in its initial "scale-up" phase and is actively collecting baseline data with new schools and engaging researchers to help determine the impact VREP makes on students and schools. VREP's early adopters – the "pioneers" – have produced substantial results that range from an average 1-point GPA improvement by graduation to the need to add additional advance level (AP) math classes. Of particular note is the fact that although many VREP students were considered "at-risk" of not graduating, many enroll and succeed in AP and Honors courses, participate in STEM-related internships after high school graduation (opportunities usually afforded only to college students), and frequently pursue a STEM-related degrees in college. A part of the VREP vision is for students to connect with corporate sponsors through internships, career shadowing opportunities and other collaborative corporate relationships that permit the students to apply their 3D development skills in real-life settings. As additional local businesses become corporate partners, both they and the VREP students will benefit from this type of collaboration.