Navy brings virtual reality experience to Spain Park

HOOVER – Spain Park High School students had the chance to pilot a high-speed assault craft and extract Navy SEALs from enemy territory on Thursday, April 12, when the U.S. Navy brought its virtual reality display to educate about the opportunities available to sailors.

This immersive, mobile display, named the Nimitz, was at the school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., on its way to the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport for an air show on April 14-15.

Navy sailors were available to answer questions and help people navigate the virtual reality experience for an event that coincided with Birmingham Navy week on Apr. 9-15.

“We are excited to introduce today’s Navy experience to some of the best and brightest in the region,” said Capt. David W. Bouve, national director of Navy marketing and advertising at Navy Recruiting Command. “To reach a high-caliber pool of recruiting prospects, we’re working to encourage STEM engagement across the country.”

Inside the display, participants go through a video briefing before strapping on an Oculus Rift headset and a piece of wearable technology called a SubPac that percusses in real time to the sounds of the mission, such as helicopter blades whirling and live fire.

Players navigate the mission using systems that replicate the actual sensation of piloting a high-speed assault craft while extracting SEALs. Once finished, attendees move to the debriefing station, where they receive feedback and a performance grade.

“Virtual reality has allowed the U.S. Navy to come a long way,” Bouve said. “Where we once were only able to describe these experiences, now we can present the reality of a Navy mission in an interactive way.”

Other attractions offered at the school included a pull-up competition and photo booth.

Students scanned personalized dog tags at each station and afterward were emailed a review of their performances.

SPHS junior Jamiah Dye and sophomore Lia Martinez were two of the students who enjoyed the experience.

“It made me feel like I was there,” Dye said.

“It was fun to be a part of something you probably would never get to do,” Martinez added. “I thought it was cool to see what people are doing for us.”

For more information about the Navy, visit Navy.com, Facebook.com/americasnavy, or Twitter.com/AmericasNavy.