Close your eyes and imagine a virtual world where middle and high school students can transport you to their own immersive experience. Where would they take you? This is the premise for the inaugural virtual reality contest, Model This!, sponsored by the Living Environments Laboratory (LEL) in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.
The contest seeks a youthful point of view for the next 3D virtual environment in the CAVE. The winning design will be showcased during the upcoming 2015 Wisconsin Science Festival “Made in Wisconsin” in October.
Erica Gill, Associate Director and Vito Freese, Undergraduate Laboratory Associate in the LEL, conceived the design competition as a way to inspire interest in virtual reality for 6th to 12th grade students. “These contestants could be our students ten years from now,” Gill points out.
Gill and Freese also noted that the “Made in Wisconsin” theme for the upcoming Wisconsin Science Festival dovetails perfectly with the contest. Instead of the guests being passive consumers of the many festival exhibits, the contest makes them more engaged, active partners. They hope the final product made in Wisconsin by an actual kid from Wisconsin resonates with their peers.
“Kids are so proud to show their skills on the athletic field and in spelling bees. This is an opportunity to celebrate technical and creative skills…a way to let other kids shine.”
“Kids are so proud to show their skills on the athletic field and in spelling bees. This is an opportunity to celebrate technical and creative skills…a way to let other kids shine,” Gill emphasized. She believes this contest could be the first of many sponsored by the LEL and connected to the yearly festival.
Although technical interest in and understanding of programming and virtual reality, such as Unity or Maya, is highly encouraged for the contest, it is not a requirement. Individuals or teams of up to 3 students work with an adult sponsor to develop a concept proposal showcasing their idea for a virtual environment appropriate for ages four and above. They also are required to provide a visual snapshot of what the virtual environment would look like. Past virtual environments in the CAVE have included galaxies, ski hills and home living spaces.
The Wisconsin Science Festival runs October 22nd-25th, 2015 in the Discovery Building and various locations around the state. For more information go to https://www.wisconsinsciencefest.org/.