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

B.C. storm totals $37M in insured damages

The December storm wreaked havoc on B.C.’s south coast

Rising construction costs boost price of Langley intersection project

Bids for Township roundabout came in well over projected costs

Langley-raised catcher to play on Team Canada at Pan Am Games qualifier tournament

Kellin Deglan is headed to Brazil at the end of the month to play ball with Team Canada

Trappers back to peak form

Langley Junior B Team aims for playoffs

WIN: Langley thespian stars in upcoming ‘psychological thriller’

Langley’s Andrew Wood plays the role of Lieutenant Walker in Night Watch.

First Nation supporters march to Horgan’s MLA office

Dozens marched across the Greater Victoria community of Langford to support the Wet’suwet’en people

Ratfish generates social media buzz on Vancouver Island

Boneless, glowing creature a common bycatch, but it usually stays in deep waters – fish expert

UPDATE: Liberal bows out of byelection after singling out Jagmeet Singh’s race

Karen Wang says she made comments online that referenced Singh’s cultural background

Thieves steal thousands from 140 Coast Capital Savings members

Online fraud tactics included phising and ‘brute force’ in November and December

Daredevil changes game plan to jump broken White Rock pier

Brooke Colby tells council daredevil event would help boost waterfront business

Pregnant B.C. firefighter tries to save own house that caught fire

Julia Flinton and Anthony Sellars both worked on the 2017 wildfires

Crime Stoppers releases Metro Vancouver’s top 10 most wanted

The organization releases the list each year to mark National Crime Stoppers Month in January

Theresa May wins no-confidence vote after Brexit deal rejection

UK PM can keep her job, after House of Commons voted 325-306

Most Read