Young students learn about virtual reality, 3D art at game camp

Anne Kibbler • June 13, 2017
Seeger Kubat of Tri-North Middle School in Bloomington tries out images for a 2D game. (Bobby Goddin | The Media School)

More than 40 middle school and high school students will spend this week in Franklin Hall’s computer labs constructing their own 2D and 3D video games as part of The Media School’s Game Development Camp.

The 2D and 3D classes will be offered again in June, along with a GirlPowered! camp and an art camp. In total, about 90 students from around Indiana, as well as from Chicago and Cincinnati, will participate.

For the first time, the camp is in Franklin Hall, which was renovated for The Media School and opened last August. The building is equipped with the latest computer technology.

“It’s a major boon,” camp director Chabane Maidi said of the move to Franklin Hall. “Every computer in the labs we’re using is significantly faster than the machines we’ve used in the past. That’s going to be a major breath of fresh air for us and for the students.”

Elijah Edwards of Bloomfield Junior-Senior High School in Bloomfield, Indiana, tries out a virtual reality headset in Franklin Hall’s virtual reality lab. (Bobby Goddin | The Media School)

Game camp classes take place in the school’s main computer lab and in its new virtual reality lab, which includes 10 sets of virtual reality equipment, as well as HTC Vive with headset, two wireless controllers and two base stations that facilitate motion tracking.

The students also will have access to Microsoft Hololens, a computerized headset that allows wearers to interact with holograms, and to Wacom Cintiq, an advanced electronic drawing tablet.

“These are not just toys to demonstrate; students can use them for projects the whole week, so if they want to create a whole game, it’s entirely realistic for them to do that,” Maidi said.

Already on Monday afternoon, kids in lecturer Rush Swope’s 3D class were using computers in the virtual reality lab to manipulate Unreal Engine 4, a professional-level tool used in industry to create marketable video games.

From left, Seamus Cherry, Reed Baker and Tommy Fiedler, all friends at Jackson Creek Middle School in Bloomington, use Construct 3 software to create elements of a 2D game. (Bobby Goddin | The Media School)

Harlan Berman, 14, who is about to enter ninth grade at the Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship in Bloomington, was creating a foliage-filled landscape in a game with textures taken from milk cartons. He attended the 2D camp last year.

“It’s fun here,” he said. “I have friends here, and I get to learn cool things I can do at home.”

Hannah Porter, 15, a student at Bloomington High School North, said she really likes video games and has been interested for some time in learning how to make them herself.

“I’m learning lots of new things,” she said Monday at the 3D camp.

Camp counselor Melanie Goldstone, a student at the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities, helps Cosmo Pearson-Young, a sixth-grader at Templeton Elementary in Bloomington, in the 2D game development camp. (Bobby Goddin | The Media School)

In the 2D camp, students began to learn how to create basic game elements using the program Construct 3.

Ryan Jacobson, who will be a freshman at Bloomington High School South in the fall, attended the camp last year and came back a second time.

Although he prefers last year’s PCs to this year’s Macintosh computers, he said Franklin Hall is nicer and more convenient than last year’s locations elsewhere on campus.

Another benefit of Franklin Hall, Maidi said, is the building’s 23.5-by-12.5-foot screen, located in the open commons. Students will be able to screen their games there at the end of the camp.

“We’ve never shown the games on a screen that big,” Maidi said.