A Grade 3 student tests out Ben Heyns’ “The Maze” virtual reality game at U-Connect on June 12. Miranda Gathercole Langley Times

VIDEO: Langley students show off virtual reality programs to Microsoft

Students at U-Connect have created programs for Google Cardboard, Microsoft Hololens, Oculus Gear VR

It was his family’s two dogs, two cats and ferret that inspired the enemy in Ben Heyns’ virtual reality game.

Titled “The Maze,” the Grade 11 U-Connect student designed a course where players must collect swords and shields in a massive castle, all while avoiding the giant evil fleas roaming through its halls.

“Honestly, my pets are infected with them (fleas), and I’ve grown to loath them,” he said.

“So, I thought it was a good enemy.”

Heyns is one of several students at the Langley school to beta test their virtual reality programs on Tuesday, and to show off their creations to a representative from Microsoft.

“Our students have been working very hard this year developing virtual reality applications on a variety of platforms like Google Cardboard (virtual reality), like Microsoft Hololens (mixed reality), like Oculus Gear VR (virtual reality),” said John Harris, who teaches information technology to Grade 10, 11 and 12 students.

“And so the kids are rolling out their beta versions and are testing them on some of the younger kids that are coming through to make sure that how they think the game works is how the public will interpret it. So it’s a very crucial step to get the users to do the testing.”

U-Connect, which operates out of Simonds Elementary, is a unique school that blends home schooling with face-to-face classes and online support. Its technology program has proven to be very successful, with past students winning international competitions and awards.

On hand at the beta testing event was Microsoft learning consultant Toby Sheldon, who is working with the school to bring advanced technology into the classroom.

“I’m very honoured to be here to see all of the innovation that has been happening all around us, and what has been done with the Hololens, especially,” he said. “This is something that is on the cutting edge and I’m happy to see this being implemented in the schools. I work directly with schools to implement technology in the classrooms, and this is a shinning example of what can be done.”

The technology — and the skills of the students — have come a long way since the Times last visited in 2016.

Then, the school was piloting Google Cardboard virtual reality devices. Now, it’s all about mixed reality — where virtual objects are layered on top of the real world — and applying the students’ skills to projects that could be sold on the market.

READ MORE: A whole new (virtual) world for Langley students

Students Liam Harder and Liam Troan, for example, are developing a virtual reality fighter jet game that mimics an actual fighter jet, right down to the controls and weapons.

“We thought it would be an interesting experience because it simulates you much more being there — it’s not quite mixed reality yet,” said Troan.

“So we thought it would be interesting to be able to experience being in an actual fighter jet — being able to fly above and maneuver without having the actual risk, and danger, and expensive training to be a fighter jet pilot.

“We’re just in the beginning phase, but we have high hopes for it.”

Also in attendance was U-Connect graduate Ryan Scovill, who is now in his third year of computer science at Simon Fraser University. Scovill was part of the student group that won a robotic competition in Atlanta a few years ago, and recently completed a co-op at company Visier as a developer.

“It was here (at U-Connect) that I got interested into coding,” he said. “It started with flash games — that was back in Grade 2 or 3, so very young. And then through the robotic competitions, that was an awesome experience. It led me down this path into software and coding.”

For more on U-Connect, visit uconnect.sd35.bc.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter


Liam Harder, student at U-Connect, works on converting a 3D game into virtual reality. Miranda Gathercole Langley Times

Ryan Scovill shows off a Beaglebone he made in school. Miranda Gathercole Langley Times

Microsoft learning consultant Toby Sheldon spoke to students at U-Connect. Miranda Gathercole Langley Times

Just Posted

Bevy of remarkable birthdays celebrated in Aldergrove

Maudie MacPherson (age 101), Vera Banner (91) and Alice Utas (95)

Pond hockey banned in public parks under updated Township bylaw

Public spaces bylaw imposes new restrictions on smoking, possession of drug paraphernalia, geocaching and more

Golfers tee up for Langley Memorial Hospital

Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation’s 22nd annual charity golf tournament sells out

Election 2018: Kim Richter withdraws from mayor’s race, runs for council instead

In a Facebook post, Richter announced she will seek another term on Township council

More office, retail space planned for Willoughby Town Centre

Fourth phase now underway as Township council grants third and final reading

B.C. wildfires 2018: Hazy skies impacting crews in spotting new fires

18,000 people are on an evacuation alert, with 3,000 homes under an evacuation order

Minister optimistic after 2 days of Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Canadian and U.S. officials met in Nelson Wednesday and Thursday to discuss future of the treaty

Man dies in B.C. police cell while awaiting court hearing

An independent investigation is underway after a man died while in Penticton police custody Aug. 16

RCMP appeal for tips, dashcam footage in German tourist shooting west of Calgary

The Durango crashed into the ditch after the shooting near the Goodstoney Rodeo Centre

2 nurses attacked at B.C. psych hospital, union calls for in-unit security

PHSA says that in-unit guards would do more harm than good

Former B.C. optician won’t be jailed for sexually assaulting minor

Kenneth Pilkington sentenced to 24 months’ probation for offence three decades ago

Mt. Hicks fire 15% contained, continues to burn north of Agassiz

The fire, suspected to be caused by a vehicle with a flat tire, not threatening any structures

Police responding to ‘unfolding’ incident in Maple Ridge suburb

Helicopter, dog team, guns drawn and 16 police vehicles at Maple Ridge property

Red Cross now accepting donations for those impacted by B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Red Cross is asking for help now and in the weeks and months ahead.

Most Read