July 22, 2020

Changing the World and Solving Problems - Virtual Reality and the Power of the Entrepreneur – with Steve Grubbs [Ep. 28]

Changing the World and Solving Problems - Virtual Reality and the Power of the Entrepreneur – with Steve Grubbs [Ep. 28]

The power of the entrepreneur should never be underestimated! Listen as Steve Grubbs, Founder and CEO at VictoryXR and ChalkBites, shares his exciting journey into the world of virtual reality (VR) education for children and adults.  Whether training in the workplace or educating in the home or school, virtual reality allows one to go back in history, learn a new skill, or visit a new place – and so much more! How can we use VR to help people understand the blessings and responsibilities of living in our great country?  Listen as Steve shares his thoughts and recommendations with Linda in this fascinating interview.

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Linda J. Hansen: Thank you for joining us for this episode. Today I have a guest that I know you’ll love hearing from. It’s just exciting information and you will learn, believe me. Steve Grubbs is based in Iowa. He is the founder of Victory XR, Victorystore.com, Chalkbytes, and Victory Enterprises. He is a YPO member, and early in life he served as chairman of the House Education Committee in the Iowa House of Representatives and passed the largest technology funding bill in state history. More recently he chaired the YPO Technology Network for two years, and today he is working to create a place for Virtual Reality curriculum in schools. He has degrees in Business and Law from the University of Iowa, and I would like to welcome my good friend Steve Grubbs.

Steve Grubbs: Thank you Linda, always wonderful to be with you.

Linda: Oh, it’s a pleasure. Thank you so much. I think back to…we have known each other a long time. It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we actually met but for our listeners, we met through political projects and different coalition development projects over the years and it has always been a pleasure to work with Steve and his team and I love his heart of entrepreneurship, his great business sense, and he is a real patriot which is always inspiring and I just really thought that our listeners would enjoy hearing about his unique business and where he hopes to take it. So, Steve is the first developer to create a campus for Virtual Reality. Could you explain to our listeners, who may not understand what that is, what Virtual Reality is and what the terms like XR or VR, please explain to them. Thank you.

Steve: Here’s a quick primer. So, you might have seen people with Virtual Reality headsets on, so what happens when you go inside Virtual Reality is you step into a world , you’re an avatar and there may be other people in there with you from all over so for example we’ve been teaching a class in anatomy. And we have Wendy Martin, national finalist for Teacher of the Year. She’s in there as the teacher, and then we have students from across North America, including Colorado and North Carolina and Canada, and Iowa. And so, they all enter in there together and she teaches them about the, this particular lesson was about the alimentary system. You know, you eat and how the food goes through the body and what it does. And so, you know, she’ll take people to a hospital. Because you can do that in Virtual Reality and there is a patient there. There are patients there because they have an alimentary issue. It might be an issue related to gluten, or some other issue. And then she takes them back and she has a human cadaver in the room with her and she reaches inside the body and she pulls out the stomach. And then she hands the stomach to the student from Colorado. The Colorado student looks at it and then hands it to the student from North Carolina. The North Carolina student takes it and then expands it so it is seven foot and steps inside the stomach and then looks around to get a sense of what the organ really is. And then that student passes it on as well. And so, it is a classroom like any other classroom. You have a teacher. You have students. You have learning objects. But, you can do things in this Virtual Reality classroom that you can’t do otherwise, and what we have built is an entire campus. So, some teachers may say I am going to use the Auditorium, the lecture hall. Others might use the Science lab. Some might use the Astronomy Center. Others might use the History Center. The History Museum.

So, it’s an entire campus and we have lesson plans and the whole deal. And schools now, not just because of this recent pandemic, but because online and distance learning has become a big deal. And you can only sit through so many Webinars in a day. So, it if you can actually not just watch the computer, not just watch the computer screen, but what if you could step inside the computer screen and interact with your teacher and others with objects and learn kinesthetically. Whether it’s learning how to rebuild a small engine, when you actually have an engine there. Or you learn carpentry because you have the tools and you can pick up the saw or the drill or other pieces of equipment. This is what learning in Virtual Reality allows you to do and it is what we’ve built and we are in talks with some of the largest school districts in the United States. They are very interested in it. We launched two weeks and we sure hope and expect it to be a big deal. And to fundamentally change the way education is delivered.

Linda: Oh, that’s really exciting, and as someone who has always been interested in education and I homeschooled my kids, I wish this would have been around. It’s amazing. And I was sharing with you before we started recording that I still remember when I was in third grade, one of the fathers of one of my classmates was a heart surgeon. And he brought a human heart to the classroom. We got to see it, touch it. It was, it was amazing to me and I decided right then I did NOT want to go into medicine. But I am so thankful for what I learned. And it really I think it ignited in me a desire to be healthy. Because he also taught us about what could impact the health of a heart or what could hurt your lungs. Things like that so early on that was just a great experience. So, how did you get into this?

Steve: You know, I’ve always been and entrepreneur. I was in the legislature for a while and served on the Education committee. I left that and one of the things I determined once I was inside government is that if you want to change the world to be a better place, one place to do it is government. But, it’s a very slow process. It’s a very challenging process. You spend 90, 95% of your time dealing with things that really are not moving the ball down the court. Then you have entrepreneurship where you say OK “I want to solve the problem of equity in education”. Or “I want to solve the problem of some students having access to amazing education and amazing educators and other students not having access to those things.” And whether you are a republican, a democrat, a liberal, a conservative, we all recognize that not all kids get the same educational opportunities. And maybe they’re out there if they go and pursue it, but wouldn’t it amazing if we could say “Who’s the best science teacher in American?” Well, we think it is Wendy Martin. Why don’t we have the best science teacher in America teach every student in America. And we all know if you’re a parent, you know that some of the teachers, your kids have been amazing. Some…less than amazing. And you also know that sometimes your child gets a teacher that’s so bad that basically they just waste a whole year. That doesn’t have to be the case now because we can introduce students to the best teachers so that every student gets and amazing motivated teacher.

So, these are problems that can be solved through entrepreneurship. And you know, you look at Elon Musk. Some people love him, some people hate him, but I think everybody agrees that he is solving problems. And you know, I bought a Tesla. Best car I’ve ever owned. I love it. I will never drive anything else. And um, I hope to maybe hop on one of his ships and head to the moon. And walk on the moon. You know, these are things the government could have never pulled off. And you know, NASA had to reach out to Space X to get humans back into space. And so, I know that the private sector can solve a lot of problems and you can do things more quickly than you can in government. And we still, we need great legislators, great congressmen, great people in government at all levels. But at the same time for me, this is my opportunity to solve problems through entrepreneurship.

Linda: Yeah, that’s very inspiring. It’s… there are so many entrepreneurs out there that feel quite the same and I know even for myself I’ve been asked to run for office many times over the years and I just felt like my best place to be impactful was not as an elected official. I just felt I’d have more opportunity, more freedom, more impact, I think overall and like you said, we need great people in government but we need great people in private business. And I think like you mentioned Space X, but even with the Covid-19 pandemic, we see how America was able to just respond so rapidly. So much faster than we would have if all of those manufacturers and things were government entities. The private sector was able to turn on a dime almost and start manufacturing masks or ventilators or whatever was needed. And we were able to really turn that around. And that comes from entrepreneurs, and really caring about the business community growing and advancing. I’d like to just stop for a minute to have you mention YPO. I’ve done a few workshops with YPO members with Prosperity 101™ and I’d just like to highlight that for a minute so our listeners understand what that acronym stands for.

Steve: YPO is the Young Presidents Organization. I’m not that young any longer, but I once was and essentially it’s an organization if you are president or CEO of a company that does at least 12 million dollars in revenue by the time you are 40, then you can join. Actually it’s 45 now. So, you can join, and then there are about almost 40 thousand presidents and CEO’s around the world who are part of this organization. And I’ve met a lot of great people all over Wisconsin and Iowa and the United States and frankly I have great friends all over Asia and Europe. So, it’s a great organization that really works to solve a lot of problems and also to mentor business leaders.

Linda: Yeah, that’s fantastic. And you mentioned like that age group, it’s really amazing when I think of 12 million dollars of revenue by age 40 or 45. I mean the innovation and the entrepreneur attitudes that had to come through. A lot of those are family owned business that have been passed down. Yours wasn’t exactly a family owned business, from what I understand, but your original business, Victory Enterprises, I know that you are talking to me today for those listeners who can’t see, we’re talking through Zoom, but he’s in a building that once was his own grade school. Correct?

Steve: That’s right, this.. about in 2001 they put my elementary school up for sale. And we had a young but growing company. We had two companies, actually at that point. And so, it was a 50 year old building, 26,000 square feet, six acres of land, two softball fields, two playgrounds. And so, I put in a bid for put in a bid for $101,000. It was sealed bids. They had three bids. They came back and said “You’re the high bid, but that is not enough money for this wonderful place. They said come back with more. So, I thought about it. A week later I gave them a bid for $106,000 and they said “It’s a deal”. So, since then I have been operating out of this building. I still play basketball in the gym every week. And we have actually added another 30,000 square feet of, another 10,000 of space on the original building.

Linda: That’s amazing, and I have been in that building, and it’s really quite inspirational to think about how your grew up and how you took that building and made it into an entrepreneurship success story I should say.

Steve: Everyone thinks I put my office in the principal’s office, but I put mine in the teachers’ lounge because it was the one with the private bathroom.

Linda: Oh, I thought you were going to tell me you spent enough time in the principal’s office when you were young, but…

Steve: I was a bit of a “goody two shoes” back then so...

Linda: So, you know you and I have talked quite a bit about our desire to see our country remain free. We both honor and proclaim liberty, shall I say, and we love the system of government that America was founded upon. And I know with Prosperity 101™, as I’ve shared with my listeners, we go through foundations of prosperity, policies of prosperity, and how to protect prosperity by becoming informed, involved and impactful. And this is something that education, I see you have a desire for that. My hope is that people will really understand the Constitution, not necessarily word for word, in depth, but just really understand their basic rights under the constitution and how our system of government works. And I know, I was asking you about having virtual reality for constitutional education. And you brought up that you are thinking about doing that. Could you tell our listeners about that and how they would find information if that becomes available?

Steve: Yeah, so our education company is called Victory XR. And XR stands for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. It’s one term that says it’s extended reality so it could be AR or VR. And one of the things we allow people to do is go places They couldn’t otherwise go. So, for example we have a 100 virtual field trips around the world to The Great Wall of China, Singapore Gardens, Redwood Forest, Volcanoes in Iceland. So, we have a $10.00 a month subscription and your students can subscribe to this and they get all these different places. But we also allow them to travel back in time. So, for example, we didn’t develop it, we licensed it to add to our content. But it’s called Rome Reborn. And Bernie Fisher from Indiana University, he has spent 15 years scanning and recreating Rome exactly as it was 2500 years ago.

So, you can go stand in the Coliseum or the Parthenon and look around it and walk through it. I mean, not just look at it, you can walk through it and stand in the space where the gladiators fought and look up at where the crowds were. So, it’s an amazing, amazing experience. What we have done, is we have created some similarly cool spaces. So, for example in our astronomy center, you go into our planetarium and you look up at the stars and then you can step into our “Star Trek” style transporter and beam up to the moon or beam up to our Starship and look at a Nebula, right? So, we…it’s just like that. You step into the transporter and boom, you’re gone. We have a Wooly Mammoth on loan from the Smithsonian, it’s a skeletal structure. And you walk around and you look at the skeletal structure, but then in the same room we have our time machine. You step up into our time machine. Lights start flashing, things start whirring around and you, next thing you know you are back in time 4000 years amounts a herd of Wooly Mammoths.

So, these are the types of things that we can do that A. Capture the imagination of children and make them love to learn, and before I get to your point, I just want to make a point there. There are things that most of us love to learn about. You know, some people love to learn about how to tear down a car engine and rebuild it. Other people love to learn how to cook. And it is not a chore to learn when you love to learn, you just dig into it because you get so naturally curious. How do I flambé that or how do I learn how to code? So, our mission is to make kids love to learn about science and history and these things. So, on our roadmap of things to build out for history is to recreate Constitution Hall. So, imagine if you could go and stand in Constitution Hall exactly the way it was when Ben Franklin, and Jefferson, and Hamilton were there, and Madison drafting the Constitution. And we can probably even, it’s a little bit more work but we can probably even recreate some those experiences. So, these are the things that we can do and we want to give people that option. And if you’re learning history and you put on the headset and you go back and you stand in Constitution Hall with your history teacher and you learn about the constitution standing there in Constitution Hall, maybe you’re bored, but I don’t think so. I think you are a lot more likely to love it.

Linda: I can’t imagine someone would be bored with that. That sounds so exciting. I know that during the pandemic when so many people were forced into unexpected homeschooling you offered a special discount for homeschoolers. You offered a free trial and things like that. Could you explain to the listeners again, give them your website, and let them know how they could get this type of technology for their home school or how they could get it into their local school. Their private or public school.

Steve: Sure. First of all, come to VictoryHR.com and reach out to us. There is two paths to getting our content. You can either subscribe to our campus or participate in classes on our campus. Or you can… and just to explain the difference. The campus group collaborative learning, which means that you can have your teacher in there, you can have students and you are able to have a conversation. It’s Q & A. So that is group collaborative virtual reality. So, that is what our campus is all about. There’s also a different type of virtual reality called “Individual Simulator VR”. So, imagine a pilot right? We have known for years that before you got into an F-18 or before you were flying a 747 you trained in a simulator. And that is an individual experience. You step in there. It’s got all the simulation and you learn how to fly, how to use all the instruments and how to land.

So, we also have that individual simulator learning and that’s called VXR.direct. It’s a website. VXR.direct. It’s $10 a month and you’ll need a headset so; you can get an Oculus Quest. You can get them at Best Buy or Wal-Mart for $400. You can order them from us. You can get a Pico-neo-2. You can get a Vive-Focus. Any of those would work. And HP-Reverb is a higher end headset for more detailed graphics. That’s an amazing headset. It costs a little more but it’s an amazing headset. So, these are the things, you put these headsets on, you pay $10 a month and you have access to all of our content. Two hundred and fifty unique VR experiences. Your students can travel around the world and learn from Wendy Martin, finalist for Teacher of the Year. I teach a lot of these lessons as well. It’s a great experience. You can dissect a frog, dissect a fetal pig. This really advanced anatomy and biology that you get in high school. So that’s what we’re doing and we think that it’s going to make a big difference.

Linda: Oh, I agree, I do, and you know with Prosperity 101™ I’m always talking about how employers can educate employees. But, developing that relationship with employees isn’t just about policy. I say we have to develop the relationship. They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. So, developing the relationship with the employees builds that engagement, loyalty and retention. Which therefore they might be more willing to listen when the employer is talking about certain things, policies, or things coming up to vote about or anything you know that reflect on the business and therefore the employees job. But, I think it would be great if employers reach out to you too because as you were talking about even working on cars or carpentry, this maybe some great training opportunity for business to especially work with entry level employees and just to provide some extra education for them. I mean what an opportunity to provide great learning experience and show them they care about lifelong learning.

Steve: Later in one month, July of 2020, I don’t know when people will be listening to this, but we are opening the ChalkBytes corporate training center. This is a training center for employers where we have a firefighter, 20 year veteran of the force, and he’ll teach fire safety, defibrillator training, walk through the warehouse and show fire violations. And then we will separately have an OSHA instructor who walks around the workplace and shows violations and teaches that. And then the user goes through an assessment on their own after they have been through the instruction. We have an HR instructor where your trained in how to hire, give reviews, and also to fire or terminate people. And then you sit across a desk from that trainer and they play the employee and you play your role as HR and have to hire or fire or whatever the case might be. So, all of this is done in VR so our trainer might be in LA and the person training might be in Hoboken, NJ. But together they are in the same room having a live conversation just like you and I are doing. So, that can be done and we are also doing the same thing with our forklift simulator training. So, you drive a forklift. Learn how to do it without killing people or dropping pallets on people.

Linda: I always wondered how they do that. No, this is fantastic but it goes back to entrepreneurs who are solving problems and creating solutions for society because you never dreamt probably that there would be a pandemic, and people would not be able to meet in person as much. But now you are providing for students and employers and employees amazing opportunities for them to learn from a variety of recourses and subject matter. So, I salute you and I’m just really thankful that you could be a part of this. I would like to make a suggestion that all elected officials should have to go to a virtual reality classroom, to go back to that Constitution Hall, and be taken through and have a review for them about what they are really there to support and defend in terms of our American ideals and our American way of life.

Steve: Yeah, it’s sometimes difficult to understand the historical context of those times and understand how radically liberal our founders were in their world view. The fact that policy could be decided by the masses. And granted, at that time it wasn’t everybody, but it was the first step. And that was a radically position to take at the time. And to really understand and respect what they pulled off is an amazing feat. And the whole world has benefitted from it.

Linda: It really has and America, when America prospers, the whole world prospers and it’s great. So, the more you can help people with that the better. Well, I know your time has come to a close. And we’re really grateful that you spent time on the podcast today. I’d like to just let our listeners know again they can go to VictoryXR.com and contact Steve Grubbs or those who work with him about having virtual reality within your school or your place of employment. But also thank you Steve for just your long history of working not only in politics and coalition development about issues that you care about, but also your long history with education and in entrepreneurship. Supporting business, because we know that business, small businesses are the largest employer in our country. So, supporting entrepreneurs and businesses is the way to make a strong America too so thank you for that.

Steve: Thank you Linda and I appreciate you having me.

Linda: Okay, well thank you again. And to our listeners, we’ll sign off. But, thank you Steve.

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