LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — On the long list of events that are no longer allowed during the coronavirus-era, high school dances are right near the top.
When COVID-19 threatened to cancel the homecoming dance at Advanced Technologies Academy in Las Vegas, a group of students designed and developed a digital version of the A-Tech campus and they made it entirely in the Minecraft video game.
“The first time I saw it, I was like, 'this is absolutely incredible.' We had so many ideas of all the things we wanted to incorporate, like Mr. Thomsen said, to try and replicate homecoming as best we can and make it something that kids actually want to attend,” said Gianna, a student at Advanced Technologies Academy.
It took a team of 12 student designers more than 50 hours to create the final virtual version of the school.
“It was a huge undertaking,” said Alexander, a student involved in producing the virtual campus.
The final design included interactive Minecraft games and chat rooms, so students could connect from a safe social distance.
“The entire idea with the [Discord] server was, we want people to have the opportunity to meet new people,” said Gavin, another student involved in designing and developing the virtual school.
These students' persistence during this pandemic has impressed their teacher, Mr. Keith Thomsen.
“By pulling this together during a pandemic and while we’re doing distance-learning, these kids, I think, are really preparing for the next step of what we are going to look like both educationally and what we’re going to look like as a workforce,” said Thomsen.
They also received praise from their principal.
“I said, 'OK, this is amazing, but it’s just going to be like a section of the school.' And then they sent me the final version and I said, 'whoa, this is the whole school.' I think it just shows that if we can tap into our students, what they’re interested in, then there’s new possibilities in this online environment,” said Jonathan Synold, principal at Advanced Technologies Academy.
But students say what made this virtual homecoming so successful was overcoming adversity to bring their classmates closer together.
“I think it really brought people together in a way that we couldn’t do so before. Everyone was so creative and thought outside of the box and I’m really proud of us for doing that. We believe it’s better to try and fail than to not try at all," said Roiva, a student at Advanced Technologies Academy.
To learn more about Advanced Technologies Academy's virtual homecoming, click this link.