With the cost of college rising every year, an internship that pays for both tuition and provides an hourly wage is ideal for a college student. For students at Metropolitan Community College (MCC), that is exactly the deal they can strike with an internship at the UNeTech Institute, thanks to a generous grant from 2019 EDA Omaha Medical Technology Pipeline i6 Challenge.
Anna Johnston, UNeTech Intern
McGuire Leiting, UNeTech Intern
Bo-Dee Romero, UNeTech Intern
Currently, three of these student interns work at UNeTech in a division that allows them to use their transferrable skills from developing video games to create software for medical education. Anna Johnston, McGuire Leiting, and Bo-Dee Romero all report to 3-D Modeling Technician Noah Webster.
“Bo-Dee, Anna, and McGuire have formed a good team dynamic allowing them to work simultaneously on a complex project by using source code/version management,” Webster said of his interns. “They have adapted quickly to working in a Virtual Reality environment by discovering useful plug-ins and tools and implementing them to increase efficiency and overall quality of the project.”
Leiting said he feels he has grown into the role, and developed new skills. “My work on the project has let me adapt and grow in more new ways when developing with the unity engine,” he said. “It has led me to learn more about the VR space and to become increasingly more adept at designing and communicating in the field of VR development.”
Johnston explained more about the project they are currently developing, and how it connects to the game theory coursework she takes at MCC.
“Right now, our development team is working with several UNMC doctors who want to create virtual training simulations for complex or dangerous medical procedures,” she said. “At this point, these simulations mainly focus on decision-making in potentially stressful situations. What steps and actions are necessary for a successful outcome? If mistakes are made, how can they be changed or improved upon for the next time round? VR is ideal for this kind of immersive repetition when building confidence and skill in any field.”
The VR component lets medical students practice their surgery skills in a safe environment but with high-stakes scenarios.
“The best part for me is when we finally plug that environment into the VR headsets, and there it is, your tiny little dream world all around you! It always feels so surreal to have first designed a place and then to be totally immersed in it'” said Johnston. “With VR especially, it feels like if you can dream it, you can do it. Cosmic star bowling with Elvis in a spacesuit? An ancient treasure hunt through the Valley of the Kings at midnight? Swimming with friendly Great White Sharks in the Bermuda Triangle? In VR, anything can happen, really, and that is so exciting to me.”
For Webster, the program is crucial for both the students and for UNeTech.
“UNeTech’s internship program is a mutually beneficial relationship where students are exposed to practical and new applications of skills and techniques they are learning in their respective degree programs,” Webster said. “By involving students in the prototyping stages of new inventions, students have a chance to explore the design process with support from subject matter experts, and the UNeTech team. Students gain additional skills and experience, readying them for the job market and contributing to economic development.”
“For me, the best part is great people and the way they have a very cohesive way of working together,” said Romero.