Nowadays many people want to learn how to create experiences for virtual and augmented reality devices but don't know where to start. The good news is that there are plenty of resources and events that provide VR novices with opportunities to familiarize themselves with the industry's most widely used programs. The IVRC's Immerse-a-thon is one such event that was organized with the age old adage "the best way to learn is by doing" in mind.
By taking and adapting the framework typically used in traditional hackathons, the IVRC was able to create a unique event that encourages individuals to band together in an effort to make new and exciting VR/AR content. You don't have to know much if anything about VR or AR to participate. Some people just show up to watch and ask questions, others join teams that might be down a man or two and help out where they can. Although there are some pretty great prizes given out to the winners, the knowledge, confidence, and connections made throughout the course of the event are perhaps the greatest reward.
Boise State student duo Claeo McDermott and Zena Zaleski are prime examples of how collaborative community events can accelerate the learning process. Although they came into the first Immerse-a-thon with a limited knowledge of VR and AR programming, 6 months later on their second attempt, they ended up wining the Student Division prize. This is what they had to say:
"The Immerse-a-thons were a fantastic way to really force ourselves to get in and start learning how to actually build games and experiences. The first one allowed us to break into some headway and by the time we were participating in the second we were learning how to work well as a team. It's given me the best experience as far as developing a project from start to sort-of-finish. Plus it means I'm putting the $2000 VR setup to good use." Cleo McDermott
"The Immerse-a-thons made me think. They didn't just help me learn the program and work in a team, they got me thinking about ideas and how to make a game fun to play. The themes gave me a jumping off point around which I could design a game instead of starting from nothing which is really hard to do when you're just starting out." Zena Zaleski
Code Works Boise and the teams they have fielded for past Immerse-a-thons have also benefited from their participation. Their first foray into the realm of VR began with an Immerse-a-thon. Although they had a background in programming, their experience with game engines like Unity was virtually nonexistent. It didn't take them long, however, to pick things up. By the end of the event they had built an incredibly fun experience that integrated a pink bicycle with a basket. They took their learnings from the first Immerse-a-thon into the second where they walked away with the grand prize. Their final product, Song Samurai, after some optimization and assistance from the IVRC recently made its way onto the Steam store.
Right now the IVRC is preparing for the next Immerse-a-thon in order to give the community another opportunity to collaborate, network and gain skills that are currently in high demand. On September 29th through October 1st at Boise State's Computer Science Department located Downtown Boise in the Clearwater building, participants will come together to build Idaho's next awesome VR/AR experience. This time around, one of the prizes will be an IVRC Accelerator package that includes a cash prize and mentorship from Jim Bradbury to help the winning team take their project from MVP to online store ready. The theme is "The Great Outdoors," and if you are interested in participating you should start getting your teams together and brainstorming now. You can find out more about the IVRC and the Boise Startup Week Immerse-a-thon HERE.