What if you could transport the experience of an escape room into a virtual reality lab space? Thanks to a $100,000 grant from Verizon – prize money from the Verizon 5G EdTech Challenge – the COSMOS team from the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) program plan to do just that.

The VR application under development is part of a project called 5G COVET, or 5G COsmos Verizon Education Toolkit. It’s an outgrowth of the COSMOS program, which has researchers from several academic institutions and partner organizations building an advanced wireless testbed in West Harlem.

As part of the COSMOS group, individuals from New York University and Columbia University began developing an educational toolkit last year in an effort to give area middle school teachers new material for running wireless experiments in their classrooms. That project continues to evolve, and now with additional funding from Verizon, the team will move from design to production with new virtual reality features that simulate real-world escape rooms in a virtual educational lab.


If you haven’t tried an escape room, the idea is to apply your wits to escape a room filled with themed clues and puzzles. The 5G COVET team believes that if teachers can introduce the concept into classrooms through VR, they’ll be able to pique the interest of young students, while also giving them fundamental lessons in math, physics, and computer science. The VR experience is an example of the type of lesson schools will be able to add to their curricula when they have access to high-capacity, low-latency 5G wireless networks.

“One of our most important goals is to use the COSMOS testbed, which is a very sophisticated and valuable resource, not only for academic research but as an educational tool that will benefit New Yorkers of all ages,” said Thanasis Korakis, 5G COVET team lead and research assistant professor at the NYU Tandon Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“Thanks to the existence of the testbed right here in the city and Verizon’s help in providing public schools with 5G connectivity, we’ll be able to provide a high-quality, immersive educational experience that could spark the imagination of the world’s future scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.”

Korakis and team members plan to develop 5G COVET this spring with a goal of piloting the technology in select middle schools later this year. Installers have already begun to lay new fiber at Columbia University as part of the COSMOS wireless testbed. The COSMOS team expects to kick off the pilot phase of testbed operations in March.