Connecting UT Campuses Through a Virtual Reality Competition

By Sally Kate Zaft, Staff Writer-

On April 6, a UT-system-wide virtual reality competition was announced to the student body by Dr. Dalei Wu, a UC Foundation associate professor. 

The competition consists of two phases, with phase one being where students complete a concept application that will be due by May 1. Then phase two is when approved students create a 90-second 3D video by October 15. 

After applications have been turned in for phase one, finalists will be chosen to participate in phase two. 

For those participating in phase two, resources and technical support will be provided for the teams, if desired.

Wu shared with students the ultimate end goal and product of the competition, should students participate. 

“The final product will be a 3D video that can be easily experienced by the audience by using Google Cardboard,” Wu said.

This competition will include students from UTK, UTC, and UTM. By participating, students are eligible to win awards up to $750. 

This competition welcomes all undergraduate and graduate students from the UT campuses involved, and teams can be made up of one to five participants. 

Dr. Xiaopeng Zhao, the professor from UTK who started this competition, is working with professors at UT campuses to make the contest a success. 

“The competition is sponsored by the One UT Educate Project on Growing Access in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science (GAMES),” Zhao said. 

Zhao’s inspiration for the project was to help underrepresented minority students. He also wanted to help normalize more students learning about STEM and having access to it. 

He also shared that the results of the projects in the competition will be used to introduce college life at the different UT campuses. 

Wu provided some of the ideas students have started formulating for the competition. 

“Some students have come up with very interesting ideas for the VR competition,” Wu said. “One idea is to give virtual lab tours with the purpose of educating prospective students or the public about lab instruments and research activities by using VR technology to create virtual instrument objects and simulate the research process.”

Some students have decided to take a more educational approach to the competition guidelines. 

“Another idea is to use VR to design avatars to coach people with mobility disabilities due to aging or health issues for fitness programs and promote physical exercise with diverse and fascinating practice environments,” Wu said. 

Wu also shared what student’s viewpoints on the competition and opportunity are and his own perspective. 

“Students perceive this competition as a great opportunity to make their work visible to the public and/or make their college learning experience have an impact around the UT through VR as a special computing and communication medium,” Wu said. “I consider this competition as a great platform to stimulate students’ learning interest, foster their creativity, and promote hands-on research at UT.”

Students who wish to submit applications can do so through this Google Form. Students should also be checking their emails for updates, and possible date changes for the phase due dates. 

If students wish to learn more about the One UT program sponsoring this competition, they can use this link

Students can also learn more about the competition as a whole here.

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