Virtual Reality (VR) once seemed like a far off and inaccessible technology for the general population. But as technology has advanced through the years, its popularity and usage have increased dramatically. VR is now used broadly across a multitude of fields, including arts, medicine, military, sports, and education.

VR technology is being used to train our future surgeons, armies, and athletes because it allows for an immersive experience where mistakes and learning can occur without causing harm. Outside of training, VR has been used for everything from improving mental health, through exposure and therapy practices, to the fashion industry, allowing individuals to experience fashion shows and try on clothes virtually. As VR is more and more readily available within our society, we must understand its power and use it to better our world.

At Columbia Lake Technology Center, we believe that it is important that the children in our communities learn new technologies so that they are prepared and capable to contribute to technological advancements in our futures. This is one of the reasons we were very excited to help support the Kootenay Association of Science and Technology (KAST) in their GLOWS Game Design with Virtual Reality Summer Camp by sending two of our summer interns to assist in teaching and mentoring, alongside the Open Source Lab teachers.

KAST is a non-profit organization that builds the economy of the Kootenays through innovation, science, and technology.

KAST is continuously advancing Kootenay communities by providing things such as training opportunities, networking events, and business support. They also organize Growing and Learning with STEAM (GLOWS) programs for youth. During mid-August, the GLOWS program offered the Kootenay-wide Game Design with Virtual Reality Summer Camp. This camp was targeted at youth, ten years and older, that wanted to learn, build, create, and experience virtual reality. The morning hosted a co-ed group, and the afternoon was set aside to host a girls camp to encourage females to participate in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math). Attendance was both in-person and virtual so that it would be accessible to all youth across the Kootenays.

Throughout the day, the youth built virtual reality escape rooms. They designed their rooms and environments using CoSpaces, a software that optimizes creativity and learning. After learning the basics of design, the coding began! The participants learned how to animate the people, animals, and objects in their rooms, add their voices to their escape room, and sequence events with code. Once their first products of the day were complete, they had the opportunity to play their own escape room game using a VR headset, as well as play the games their peers had created. This facilitated a great environment for collaboration and new ideas. Adaptations to the games continued throughout the camp and may still be continuing today from home! Columbia Lake Technology Center was happy to be a part of such a great program that advances our communities’ technology education and we can’t wait to see where it leads!

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