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Pilot programs for VR, gaming a success

Enthusiasm for tech can grow future pros

Kelloggsville — If a voice could be described as “beaming,” that’s how Joseph Dominguez-Chavira’s sounded recently.

“I actually had people play it!” said the sixth-grader at Kelloggsville Middle School, surprised that 18 others had played a game he had created. 

After demonstrating his game during Code on Wheels’ last meeting of the school year, he donned a virtual reality headset and immersed himself in another game.

From left, sixth-graders Vance Ollie and Colin Croschere learn to use the Unreal game creation engine with help from Geraldo Gonzalez, instructor for Kelloggsville Middle School’s coding club, and for Code on Wheels

“I’m climbing the wall like Spider-Man! I’m Spider-Man!” he exclaimed, mimicking the superhero’s famous wall-crawl pose during one game that used the headset and handheld controllers to help players move and interact virtually. Other games were played using the headset, including one that emulates boxing. 

Club members learn about and try out the latest technological advancements; another headset the club uses can showcase periods in time in near-realistic fashion, said Geraldo Gonzalez, programming instructor for the coding club and for Code on Wheels. 

Both were pilot programs this year, Gonzalez said. Code on Wheels began last fall, while the Kelloggsville Middle School coding club started in January 2022, Gonzalez said. 

“What we try to do is provide access to materials, curriculums and instructors for youth programs across the county,” he said. “All of them (students involved) came out feeling confident they could do projects on their own.”

The coding club at the middle school ran for 17 weeks and had eight students this year, while Code on Wheels had a varied number of students from Kelloggsville and other school districts. 

Projects included recreating levels from the original Super Mario Bros. games, creating 3D models and animating characters known as sprites.  Some students even built their own computers. 

‘What we try to do is provide access to materials, curriculums and instructors for youth programs across the county.’

— Geraldo Gonzalez, instructor, Kelloggsville Middle School Coding Club and Code on Wheels 
Seventh-grader Xzavier Lee uses a headset provided by Code on Wheels

Engagement Translates to Careers

Gonzalez said he pitched the coding club to the school after seeing that some students wanted to learn beyond annual Hour of Code events. 

“A lot of times … students didn’t have programs to continue learning,” Gonzalez said. “If they have consistency and guidance, and they have the (desire) to build these things, we’re going to be here to connect them with resources.

“Learning how these systems work at a deeper level will help prepare them for systems and future jobs we aren’t aware of right now.”  Latest figures show 64 million Americans using virtual reality technology, while sales of VR headsets are projected to reach 31 million by 2026, according to the Academy of Animated Art. Additionally, 23 million jobs will rely on VR technology by 2030, the Academy projects.  

Read more from Kelloggsville:
No excuses, even in the face of loss
Pilot LEGO program helps young students learn STEM skills

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Sean Bradley
Sean Bradley
Sean Bradley is a DeWitt native who has worked as a news reporter in several cities in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. He moved to Grand Rapids in March 2022 to be closer to the entertainment scene including live music and comedy. After graduating in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in journalism from Central Michigan University, he started his writing career at the Manistee News Advocate, covering city government and law enforcement. He later moved onto The Morning Sun in Alma, and in 2018, went to the Livingston Daily Press and Argus. At these newspapers, he covered school boards and got to know superintendents and staff, learning the ins and outs of education reporting. He is excited to be reporting on Kelloggsville Public Schools for School News Network.


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