Lehman to open new virtual reality lab

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In Lehman College’s new virtual reality lab, visitors can experience the thrill of a roller coaster ride, walk around an oil rig stationed in the middle of the ocean or explore a picturesque town.

That’s what many visitors did who attended Lehman College’s open house for its new Virtual Reality Training Academy and Development Lab on Feb. 1. The school held an open house to introduce potential applicants to its new program.

“I’m excited for this open house and this is cool,” said Jacob Cintron, who attended and is considering enrolling in the course.

“I did a little bit of game design in college. I’ve been looking for things to kind of put that to use…Right now, I have a job that kind of does not use my degree to any extent. So, I thought this was an interesting opportunity,” he added. He graduated from Hunter College last year.

Fellow graduate Eva Senatore is also thinking of enrolling in the program. “I was a media major so I did web programming, game design, animation… and I feel like this program gives my degree more of a possibility to do what I’m interested in learning and delving into more,” said Senatore.

“I currently work on film shoots as a special effects makeup artist… but I don’t know how I could make a career out of it. So having a possible career goal to move forward to is cool,” added Senatore.

Lehman doctoral lecturer Sunyata Smith at Lehman’s Education School said she wants to combine education and virtual reality, which she called the future of the field. She trains students who will teach science classes in kindergarten through 12th grade.

“I think it will be revolutionary and it will help students conceptualize in a way that they haven’t be able to do so,” added Smith. She plans to create science experiments for students using virtual reality.

Lehman senior Bobur Murtozaev, a computer science major, said enrolling in the program was a way to “keep track of these modern technologies.” In his emailed comments, he added that he is “heavily” interested in learning about Artificial Intelligence and that training lab would take it “to the next level.”

Riverdale resident and Lehman’s vice president and chief information officer, Ronald Bergmann said the program is the first of its kind in the Bronx.

“Virtual reality and augmented reality is still relatively new but it’s growing by leaps and bounds. By 2020, 2025, we’re going to have these VR [virtual reality] and AR [augmented reality] tools all around us. So having Bronxites with these skills to be able to create content is what we are trying to grow,” said Bergmann.

He added applicants do not need to have a background in computers or design. The program is looking for students with “entrepreneurial zeal” and “grit” to be a part of the intensive 11-month program.

“I’m looking forward to people being able to fulfill their hopes and dreams. And, either be able to start a new career or continue in their career... I think that this a burgeoning area that will be incredibly helpful in the Bronx,” said Jane MacKillop, interim dean at Lehman’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.“

"The Bronx has not really developed in terms of technology, in the way that Brooklyn has or Manhattan. We’d like to be a facilitator… for that to happen in the Bronx.”

Lehman partnered with EON Reality, a company that creates augmented and reality-based programming for the education, entertainment, travel and aerospace industries, for the training program. Frank Botdorf, EON Reality’s director of business development, said at the end of the program, the company would be looking to hire some of the students.

“We’re planning to hire as many as we think we need. One of the motivators is that we’ve got a lot of projects right now and not as many qualified folks,” said Botdorf.

The program will be offered at Lehman’s campus at CUNY on the Concourse, which is located at 2501 Grand Concourse. The program is a non-credit course and starts April 24. Classes, which include animation, 3D graphics and web design, will take place on evenings and Saturdays. The cost is $499 for CUNY students and employees and $599 for non-CUNY applicants.

The next open house takes place on March 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.lehman.edu/vr/index.php#home.

“I’m excited for the Bronx,” said Bergmann. “What’s really exciting to me is that we are offering this type of opportunities to CUNY students and residents of the Bronx…at a reasonable cost with an excellent learning opportunity.”

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