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UNK CSIT students are trendsetters in the virtual reality (VR) world as they break new ground using the UNK CSIT VR lab. Each new version of VR hardware and software, and each new semester, brings about opportunities for CSIT students to innovate and express their creativity.
The first CSIT VR project was a snowboarding simulation completed in the spring of 2014 by Daniel Russel as his Software Engineering project. It used the first generation Oculus Rift VR display for head tracking and display along with the Wii Balance Board, to control the in-game snowboard. It was developed with the Unity Engine, and used Blender for 3D modeling. Daniel, a May 2015 Computer Science Comprehensive graduate, demonstrated his snowboarding simulator to middle and high school students at the 2014 Nebraska Broadband Conference and at the 2015 First Lego League Robotics Competition in Kearney. (Images below.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjTtZWYA04g&sns=em
In the spring of 2015, two VR projects were created as projects in the Artificial Intelligence course, using the Oculus Rift Development Kit (DK) 2.
Ian Lim, an Applied Computer Science junior from Grand Island, created a “rrobots versus humans” VR first person shooter game, robotsvshumansposts.tumblr.com for the Oculus Rift KD2. (Shown above right.) He used the Unity Game Development Engine, along with TF3DM and Turbo Squid for 3D modeling.
Sam Middleton, an Applied CS junior from Kearney, created a VR motorcycle racing game, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M_B7mCIMy4, which won the 5th annual Central Nebraska business idea contest in October 2015. The game involves a player surviving on a motorcycle while avoiding walls and an artificial intelligent agent. Players use the Oculus Rift DK2 to look and feel like they are actually riding the bike. Sam plans to have a finished version of his game ready for commercial release in the next six months.
“With the rising market in virtual reality gaming, such a business would thrive in the coming years. And unlike the physical products of most businesses, games could be mass-produced cheaply through digital online marketplaces,” said Middleton.
“As these virtual reality devices are created by Microsoft, Sony, Samsung and Google, there will be a high demand for software compatible with these devices.” http://unknews.unk.edu/2015/11/24/unks-middleton-wins-business-idea-contest-with-virtual-reality-game/
The fall 2015 semester brought about more CSIT student VR projects.
Sam set out to improve his motorcycle racing game in the CSIT 422 Computer Graphics course. Unfortunately, innovating in the VR world has its challenges. As he went to implement the game into the new Unity 5 engine, his motorcycle which worked perfectly in the previous version of Unity, now moved straight up instead of straight forward. Back to the drawing board! He was able to solve this problem and also added the ability for the human player to jump over walls.
Ian also continued his VR work, and created a 3D explorable world, where the user enters an elevator, and each floor contains a new world to explore.
Matt Lueck and Ben Bomberger, CS Comprehensive seniors from Kearney, tried their hand at creating a VR project in their Senior Capstone course, as they developed a VR 3D boxing game for the Oculus Rift. It was built using Unity with Leap Motion, using Blender for the 3D modeling. The Leap Motion allows the VR system to “see” the player’s hands. Unfortunately for Matt and Ben, it only recognizes a hand when all five fingers were visible. So much for using a seeing your fist for boxing. It turned into more of a “slapping” game.
Ben Wagner, CSIT student, is shown using one of the CSIT Oculus Rift VR headsets with the Leap Motion. If you look on the computer screen, you will see images of hands. In the headset, you “see” your hands, grab items, throw things, etc.
January 2016 brought about the first commercial release of the Oculus Rift. Fortunately for developers, it now comes with the Oculus Touch, which is a handheld tracked controller that brings your hands into VR.
Late in September 2015, more than 1,500 VR industry leaders and developers filled the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles for the second annual Oculus Connect keynote Oculus is a leading VR company that is "revolutionizing the way people play video games."Oculus revealed they had 130,000 registered developers, 700,000 downloads from their Oculus Share service, and 40,000 live viewers on the Twitch livestream for the conference keynote alone. It's clear that VR is garnering a huge amount of development interest across multiple industries, including video streaming, gaming and simulated learning. This explosion of awareness and enthusiasm for VR has resulting in many schools adopting VR resources for their students, including MU Engineering's Information Technology program, which has introduced its own VR space in 105 Engineering Building North with an impressive technology line-up for VR enthusiasts. Equally impressive are the VR projects.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney Computer Science Department will help rural teachers integrate computer science and information technology lessons into the classroom.
The program, Computer Science Principles on the Prairie, aims to prepare young people in rural Nebraska for information technology careers.
It’s official: the legislation to fund University of Nebraska renovation projects has passed and been signed by Gov. Pete Ricketts. What that means for UNK: A new Otto Olsen building.
What it means for CSIT: new lab space for students to work on projects in computer security, system administration, robotics, virtual reality, mobile app development, and more! Stay tuned as the process moves forward. The current estimation is to have a new home for CSIT in 2019.
Student-led projects are used in multiple courses in the CSIT program. Student projects are tailored to their own interests. Students learn all of the necessary skills for software development (software analysis & design, project management, algorithmic design, database design, graphics programming, team work, computer security, quality assurance) in a fun and exciting way! Sample projects include virtual reality, mobile apps and gaming.
UNK CSIT held its annual robotics competition on April 19th. This year, the robot were required to play mini golf on a 3-hole miniature golf course. The robot had to avoid obstacles along the way. The holes were randomly set up, which made navigation difficult. Four teams competed. Three teams competed in the regional MICS competition.
Deividy Negri's Sports Event App was also in the top 10 ideas. View Deividy's pitch.
Collecting, calculating, reporting, filing and tracking body-mass index data for Kearney’s school children was a tedious task. That is, until Jacob McCann, a UNK CSIT student, put his emerging app-development skills to use developing a new mobile application.
After a semester of development through a unique industry-university development and internship program, Kearney school administrators and school nurses are putting the iPad app to use this fall compiling BMI student data in the schools.
The app is the brainchild of UNK faculty Kate Heelan and Bryce Abbey, who proposed the idea for the Hollman Internship Program project in December 2014. Intern Jacob McCann was selected from student applicants to work with Heelan and Abbey and experienced app-development mentors at Hollman Media in Kearney. McCann completed the app in July and has been working out the bugs this fall to see the final product, the School BMI Calculator, finished. It’s in use now.
A new partnership between the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) Department of Computer Science and Information Technology (CSIT) and the Grand Island Career Pathways Institute (CPI) is aimed at tackling the IT workforce deficit in Central Nebraska. This agreement establishes a dual enrollment opportunity for the UNK CSIT Introduction to Computer Science course.
According to Dr. Harms, the dual enrollment with Grand Island CPI is a model that UNK plans to build on. Establishing dual enrollment programs with Central Nebraska schools allows talented students to earn college credit while still in high school. This shows these students they can be successful in the IT field, and provides them with incentive to pursue an IT-related major in college, thus impacting the number of high school students with IT career awareness, the total enrollment of CSIT majors at UNK, as well as the number of IT professionals in Central Nebraska.