24-hour event to inspire, empower next generation of environmental leaders
For years, Unity College has earned a reputation as America’s Environmental College, leaning into sustainability sciences while also breaking new ground in higher education by rejecting traditions to prioritize accessibility, affordability, and flexibility for learners. Challenging the very idea of how students want to learn, and who those students even are, Unity College recently launched its XR Innovation Lab to bring emerging technologies to students, companies, and organizations, and provide insight into sustainable opportunities and challenges. From Nov. 28-29, the XR Innovation Lab will boldly embark on its first significant venture with its inaugural 24-hour XR EcoHack.
The XR EcoHack will present teams of students representing a variety of institutions with global environmental challenges. The teams will then use their creativity and work together to use emerging eXtended Reality (XR) technologies to create solutions.
“I’m proud that Unity College has educated thousands of environmental leaders throughout its history, while also embracing innovation and new technology so that we can continue to meet the needs of modern learners,“ said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “The XR EcoHack, much like Unity College, merges those two worlds and empowers the next generation of environmental leaders to be the problem solvers we need now and in the future. Not to put too much pressure on our participants, but I hope that in addition to having a blast collaborating within their teams, they come away with tangible solutions to the challenging prompts that we assign them. I cannot wait to see what these teams come up with.”
In May, Unity College brought David Bass-Clark on board as the director of AR/VR Research and Development. Since then, he has been collaborating with faculty and instructional designers to leverage XR technologies and create immersive educational experiences for students.
“It’s a great way for students to network with potential employers/mentors and build a competitive set of skills that will help them stand out from the field!” Bass-Clark said about the XR EcoHack. “I am excited to see communities from around the world come together to conceptualize and build the next generation of educational XR experiences.”
The Hackathon is hosted by the Unity College XR Innovation Lab in partnership with Yale Center for Collaborative Arts and Media, University of Michigan’s Alternate Reality Initiative, MetaVRse, Esri, LBX Immersive, and Quinnipiac Game Design & Development.
“Creativity pushes innovation. The Unity XR Innovation Lab’s virtual XR EcoHack 2020 will allow that creativity to come to life as students tackle a real world challenge using our partners’ emerging tech to develop innovation solutions,” said Doug Studdiford, director of partnerships at Unity College.
“The world is vast yet small, robust yet fragile,” added Alan Smithson, CEO of MetaVRse, who has partnered with the Unity College XR Innovation Lab on the hackathon. “To unlock the best possible outcomes for humanity, we have to use every tool at our disposal. By leveraging the power of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, we will be able to share our ideas and our ideals, creating new opportunities to learn, create, build, and communicate. MetaVRse is honored and humbled by the enthusiastic support of XR EcoHack 2020 and their ongoing effort to improve the future of our planet.”
While this year’s EcoHack quickly reached capacity after it launched, the XR Innovation Lab is seeking participants for next year’s event, as well as partners. If you’re interested in becoming a participant or partner for future EcoHacks, visit unity.edu/distance-education/extended-reality/xr-ecohack/.