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Build UB’s campus in Minecraft on april 23

By Dan Hartman

Published March 24, 2016

Dan Hartman (UB Student, Class of 2016) was born in Rochester, NY. He transferred to UB after earning an Associate’s Degree at Monroe Community College and is working towards completing his Bachelor’s in Communication. Dan hopes to become a screenwriter someday. In his free time, he enjoys working out, eating cereal, and spending time with his friends.

UB students: when you first toured UB, were you overwhelmed with the size of the university? A group of energetic students may have a solution! In an attempt to create a unique virtual campus, students from all disciplines are invited to start recreating UB’s campus in Minecraft in a April 23 build-a-thon from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Student Union lobby. Doors open at 8 a.m. for breakfast and registration.

Minecraft is a popular video game that enables players to construct buildings brick-by-brick in a 3D world. Since its launch in 2011, Minecraft has developed a strong following by fans who have designed and shared their creations through gaming.

The April 23 build-a-thon is a student-led competition and first step in creating a UB Minecraft campus. “Once completed, the UB Minecraft community will allow students to navigate, share ideas, interact with faculty and staff, and ultimately receive updates on academic and social events at UB,” said Dr. Lisa Stephens, Senior Strategist for Academic Innovation at UB. “If people can’t visit UB, then we’ll bring UB to them.”

Creating a virtual campus

Students with all levels of Minecraft experience are invited to participate on April 23. Teams will be comprised of four students; you can request to work with your own team or be randomly assigned. Food, beverages and event-related memorabilia will be available throughout the day. A panel of judges will review the buildings and the top nine teams will receive prizes.

“The Student Union, the Commons and Davis Hall will be the focus of the April 23 build-a-thon due to its importance to students and its symbolism of UB culture,” said Dr. Bina Ramamurthy, Professor of Computer Science, who is an advisor to the student-led event.  “The Student Union is the focus of many campus activities, and over time, we hope to integrate and overlay additional information that will alert students to campus wide information and events.”

UB’s Minecraft build-a-thon is sponsored by M&T Bank, the Office of the Vice President and Chief Information Officer, UB Computer Science and Engineering, School of Social Work, the Office of Diversity and Equity and University Capital Facilities and Space Planning.

All participants will need to register (in advance online or at 8 a.m. on April 23), bring their own laptop and must have registered personal Minecraft accounts, which cost around $20. UB Secure Wi-Fi will be available, but it’s highly recommended to bring an adapter and minimum 25’ Ethernet cable to connect to the wired network if possible.

More than a game

J. Brice Bible, UB Vice President and Chief Information Officer, was the driving force of this event, bringing together a group of interested faculty and staff to explore how UB’s Minecraft build-a-thon might leverage a major gaming platform to support the broader academic mission. According to Bible, “The concept began during a discussion with a group of forward-thinking faculty and IT staff. They wanted to give our students an opportunity to be innovative and creative. The Minecraft build-a-thon is a major step in the use of serious gaming at our university.”

UB’s Minecraft build-a-thon is not only a competition; it is a collaboration of students’ imagination.  “We want to bring the whole community together to do something creative,” said Dr. Ramamurthy. “This is one way of building a new community of creative thinkers from all schools and disciplines across UB. We also hope to include a couple of teams from Buffalo Public Schools as part of this inaugural event.”

Video games like Minecraft have been recognized as a potential method of education.  Lancaster University has used Minecraft to host virtual tours of their campus and to raise awareness of the potential digital skills for students. UB is also interested in seeing how video games can enhance community building and student learning.

To register for UB's first Minecraft build-a-thon, visit games.buffalo.edu. Participation is limited to the first 100 students to register. As a reminder, students must already have a registered personal Minecraft account and bring their own computer in order to participate.