Gene Kochert is an Experience Matters Encore Fellow who was involved in many different projects at the Akimel A-al Middle School. Part of the Kyrene School District’s mission is to promote a passion for learning, and they found the perfect Encore Fellow to support that mission.

Gene’s vision was to create a “space” that fosters collaboration and communicates the Akimel A-al culture! Gene Kochert engaged the children in research, development and implementation of solutions in a series of projects! Two of the major projects Gene implemented were the creation of a multi-purpose collaboration space for Students and Faculty as well as an Augmented Reality Sandbox. Gene described a vivid memory of watching the children “light up with excitement as they began curiously engaging with the Augmented Reality Sandbox for the first time, the energy in the room was great!”

The Augmented Reality Sandbox was originally created at the University of California Davis; it’s an interactive 3D model that renders the topography landscape changes in real time. The children interacted directly with this model and it provided both tactile and visual learning experiences! The project took place in multiple steps, including construction and assembly of the model. It supported software such as research and development of curriculum in areas like topology, hydrology, and sustainability. The middle school children were involved in all steps of the project.

Not only was Gene involved in implementing other projects as well as the ones listed above, he has plans in the future to continue his work at the Kyrene School District. Some of these projects include: a greenhouse, desert tortoise habitat, and eventually an Aki-Farmer’s Market. Thank you, Gene, for being a positive impact in our community and helping Experience Matters continue our mission of connecting skills and talent with the community. His impactful advice for other engaged volunteers, “have fun by seeking challenging projects that you are curious about and will have a lasting impact!”