If you watched people using the virtual reality system, you would just see them standing around wearing funny helmets and waiving around pairs of black controllers about the size of a television remote.

But seen from the users' perspective, they were slicing up fruit with a sword, shooting arrows at targets or piloting a spaceship as if they were actually there.

If the players turned their head, their line of site in the virtual game would change too. Likewise, if the players take a few steps, they move in the game a few steps.

The chance to try these virtual reality experiences were available to people as part of an activity put on by ChickTech at Ashbrook Independent School Saturday, with virtual reality systems provided by the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library and Oregon State University’s Virtual Reality Club.

Catherine Stevens, co-director of ChichTech Corvallis, said the organization is intended to inspire high school girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. The event started with a workshop, attended by nine girls, where the participants learned about how virtual reality systems work and used some simple virtual reality devices.

“We hope that they come away with more awareness for the variety of things this tech can be applied for,” Stevens said. She said there are career opportunities in virtual reality that include creating virtual worlds or working in health care.

The workshop was followed by the public expo of virtual reality technology, which Stevens said was a way to raise more awareness for ChickTech locally. The group has another workshop, on machine learning, coming in April, although some of the details of that event are still in the works.

ChickTech Corvallis said in some of its promotional material that the organization is necessary because only 26 percent of the computing workforce in the U.S. is women and only 20 percent of engineering undergraduates at OSU are women.

Jesse Adams, digital services coordinator for the library, said the library participates in demonstrations like this so that people can get a chance to try virtual reality. While available to consumers, the technology is still more expensive than many people can afford. The library’s virtually reality system cost about $800, he said, but it requires a powerful $2,000 computer to run.

“One of our goals is to excite people by exposing them to technology they wouldn’t otherwise see, especially with kids,” Adams said.

He said he hopes events like this will inspire kids to be interested in careers in programming.

“There is a whole generation of thinkers that could excel in it if they just got introduced to it,” Adams said.

Abe Thompson, a freshman at Corvallis High School, got to try out a virtual reality system at the event. Although he had tried the less sophisticated Google Cardboard virtual reality system before, he said the event gave him his first chance to try a higher-end virtual reality system where you have controllers and can move around in a virtual world by walking.

“It’s really cool. It feels like you are somewhere different, looking at it through a pair of goggles,” he said.

Thompson added that he liked that the event gave people a chance to try out virtual reality systems.

“(Otherwise) I do not think I would have ever gotten to try this,” he said.

For more information about ChickTech in Corvallis, visit http://corvallis.chicktech.org.

Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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