USI joins the world of Minecraft
Like most USI students, Isaac Hopf ’22 hasn’t set foot on campus since March. Despite his physical absence, however, the computer science major is becoming increasingly familiar with the University’s layout— through a virtual Honors project.
When COVID-19 forced Hopf and his peers to leave their residence halls and apartments, Dr. Sarah Stevens, Director of the Honors Program, turned to IT for help providing a new online community-building tool: a Minecraft server. “After looking at a lot of ideas, I polled the Honors students and Minecraft emerged as something they wanted. It’s something creative to do, somewhere to go, and a way for us to show how much we love USI,” says Stevens. “So many of us miss being on campus. This is a way for us to recreate USI in a virtual space.”
A longtime Minecraft fan, Hopf is excited to be leading the effort to build a blocky version of the University in a world he describes as “the sandbox of all sandboxes.” And he’s hopeful more students will join the voluntary project this summer. “In translating parts of USI into Minecraft, I really got an idea for the beauty of our architecture and have come to appreciate it more,” he says. “I’ve really enjoyed designing bits of the University Center, and hopefully laying down some outlines for sidewalks and buildings will make it easier for others to hop in and start designing too. I hope to eventually outline the central part of campus and build up whatever seems fun.”
The design and construction process requires architectural and engineering skills, as well as creative thinking, says Stevens. “It takes a lot of time to figure out what something should look like and then make it happen …. We’ve used tools like Google Maps as well as images of campus to try to get the distances and buildings correct.”
She plans to keep the Minecraft server running for at least a year and may expand building access to students outside the Honors Program in the future. Once campus is in place, any Minecraft user can explore. “Students could go to the UC—or wherever else—and hang out and chat, just like in real life. Students could wander around and enjoy the campus. We could even open it to prospective students in high school or middle school, so they can explore what it would be like on the USI campus,” she explains. “We have enough room … to expand and build all the housing areas and athletic areas if students want to. I would love to see that.”
Know someone interested in this project? Contact Dr. Sarah Stevens to get involved.