The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Category: Student Scholarship


The UMass Amherst Libraries Digital Media Lab (DML) is pleased to announce Edwood Brice ’19 as the winner of the Lenovo Mirage Solo Virtual Reality Competition. Celebrating the release of Avengers: Endgame, the competition invited students to submit a 30-second video describing how they envisioned virtual reality (VR) technology and applications that could enhance student life on campus. The DML awarded Brice with a Lenovo Mirage Solo VR headset.

Brice’s winning entry introduced VR “exergaming” (gamified exercising paired with virtual reality) as a way to provide a balanced source of physical activity for the UMass Amherst campus community. “With results that say that VR exergaming is objectively easier to conduct and more fun than traditional physical activity, it is apparent that more should be done to understand how VR technology can impact other people and their varying states of health,” he explains.

This is the second virtual reality pitch competition held by the DML. Last year, Parker Louison’s idea for a VR application to develop simulations of various career paths and areas of study won the grand prize: an HTC VIVE VR headset donated by Dr. Steve Acquah, Digital Media Lab Unit Coordinator and Associate Adjunct Professor of Chemistry.

“The VR competition reinforces our commitment to helping the university community learn more about and develop Apps for virtual and augmented reality, as part of a makerspace initiative. The DML is here to help you build Apps for teaching, research, or just for fun,” Acquah says.

As part of that commitment, the DML is also incorporating the Lenovo Mirage Solo VR headset, powered by Google’s Daydream VR platform, into its development support services to help students and staff create applications and immersive environments. The standalone headset uses 6 Degrees of Freedom (6DoF) tracking to allow a person to physically move around in a virtual environment, and is a crowd favorite at DML events.

Katy Greeley, a Business Development Manager for Connection, along with the Lenovo Team from Connection who made the competition’s prize available, says, “I love being able to see what these ingenious students come up with in their creative minds and are able to take an amazing, out of the box idea, design it, and bring it to life. It’s so cool that we are able to help equip them and empower them with this technology to take their futuristic ideas to the next level! Congrats, Edwood—very well deserved!”

Currently located on Floor 3 of the W. E. B. Du Bois Library, the Digital Media Lab is a campus makerspace specializing in providing support for all students, faculty, and staff on 3D printing, video and audio production, 3D modeling, and virtual and augmented reality application development.

The UMass Amherst Libraries Digital Media Lab (DML) recently supported Edwood Brice ’19 in his research on using virtual reality (VR) “exergaming,” or exercising through gaming, as an appealing alternative to traditional forms of exercise.

As detailed in his Commonwealth Honors College thesis, Brice measured step count and intensity of traditional physical activities like body weight squats, elliptical, and walking against those of three virtual reality games with comparable movements: Hot Squat, Fruit Ninja, and Tilt Brush by Google. He used the HTC Vive VR system available in the Digital Media Lab to conduct this experiment.

Brice concluded that although traditional physical activity was objectively more intense and generally produced higher exertion rates, exergaming was a preferred option for over half his participants and remains “a viable form of physical activity, easier to conduct and may be more enjoyable than [traditional physical activity] for college students.”

“Edwood’s work is a critical step forward for the use of VR as a way to promote health, especially as VR devices become untethered and take advantage of the upcoming 5G network infrastructure,” says Dr. Steve Acquah, Digital Media Lab coordinator. “At that point, VR would evolve into the tool we have been waiting for. The DML was able to provide the VR equipment and space to support his research.”

The Digital Media Lab currently offers immersive VR experiences in a dedicated space on Floor 3 of the W. E. B. Du Bois Library. The setup is open for reservations for all UMass Amherst UCard holders, including faculty and staff, from any major or department.

The UMass Amherst Libraries are pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 Undergraduate Sustainability Research Awards. The competition was open to all currently-enrolled UMass Amherst undergraduates.

The first place recipient, Justin Risley ’20, will receive a $1,500 scholarship for the video “Water We Doing?”

Two second place awards of a $750 scholarship each go to Halley Steinmetz ’19 for the paper “Analyzing the Effects of Coccolithophore Concentration on the Relationship Between Vertical Absorption Coefficient and Secchi Disk Depth,” and Nicole Comeau ’19 for the project “A Proposal to UMass Amherst for a Universal Electronic Time Reporting System.”

An honorable mention of a $300 scholarship goes to Skylar Roach ’21 for the paper “Opened Doors: The Women’s Land Army, the Northeast, and Farm Sustainability.” 

Winners presented their projects and accepted their awards at the Undergraduate Sustainability Research Awards celebration on Thursday, April 4, 2019, 5-7 p.m., in the Science and Engineering Library, Lederle Lowrise. The event was free and open to the public, and featured keynote speaker Abrah Dresdale, author of Regenerative Design for Change Makers: A Social Permaculture Guidebook.

Winning projects will be made openly accessible in the Sustainability Student Showcase in ScholarWorks, the university’s digital repository.

The awards promote an in-depth understanding of sustainability topics, research strategies, and the use of library resources, providing participating students with vital skills they will carry into future academic and vocational endeavors. The awards and event are made possible by the UMass Amherst Libraries’ national award-winning Sustainability Fund.