By Conny Chavez, Feb. 2, 2021
A group of first-year students conquered Cal Poly Pomona’s fall 2020 Minecraft Challenge despite never setting foot on campus. The two winning all-first-year teams stunned viewers at the Dec. 18 Zoom award ceremony as they demonstrated their impeccable replicas of campus buildings in a Minecraft map.
Every semester, students are given the opportunity to compete in this engineering-motivated challenge and are judged for their creativity, accuracy and completion of the models. Through the program, students can recreate models of campus buildings within the Minecraft server for an opportunity to win cash prizes.
Unlike the previous semesters, the majority of the participants for the fall 2020 challenge have never set foot on campus and only relied on resources, such as blueprints and Google Images, for reference and Discord servers to facilitate communication.
“It’s pretty hard because we are just given blueprints, and we only know the two-dimensional, bird’s-eye view,” said Peter Case, a first-year manufacturing engineering student and member of the winning team for the fall challenge. “We made it to scale with just the blueprints to try to make it as accurate as possible.”
Minecraft is an open world, sandbox video game that allows players to build their own fantasy worlds or reconstruct existing locations like the CPP campus.
Although most winning members had experience playing Minecraft for about eight years, they still faced major challenges during the competition.
Participant Timothy Chung, a first-year visual communication design student, shared that his team faced difficulties accurately replicating the building through the online platform, and the quality of the model was not as high as the team desired. According to Chung, it was tedious to match the angles of their replica to the real building.
“In Minecraft, there’s only a limited number of different blocks,” explained Chung. “Your color palette is pretty limited, so a lot of areas weren’t exactly color accurate.”
Despite the difficulties, the challenge resulted in two winning teams — one for a BRIC replica and the other for the Bronco Student Center model. Team 3, consisting of Marc Cruz, Chung and Case, were awarded $200 each for their impressionably accurate replica of the BRIC building. Team 5, with members Austin Nguyen, Joe Chen and Kenneth Ng, won $300 each — earning $100 more than their co-winners due to the BSC’s complex design.
The Minecraft Challenge is sponsored by the College of Engineering’s Maximizing Engineering Potential program which aims to prepare historically underrepresented engineering students to become leaders and professionals with skills to tackle career challenges.
The challenge was initiated by MEP Director Lily Gossage after witnessing her two sons learning to collaborate with others through the fantasy world of Minecraft.
“I just have been very pleased that students are using it to find friendships with what is happening with social distancing,” said Gossage.
Gossage believes the challenge is the perfect opportunity to create a community as it fulfills the need to interact with peers and allows students to create friendships during virtual learning. The challenge supports students in gaining real-world experience as participants learn to collaborate with strangers, which is common in professional settings, Gossage added.
“Anyone who knows how to play Minecraft could try this and get a good result,” said Case. “It’s a good challenge, and it’s a great experience overall. We got to meet other people. I got to broaden my horizons.”
The upcoming MEP Minecraft challenge is set to begin on Feb. 15 in which students will be recreating the Student Services Building. This semester will have 12 teams available with three to four members per team.
The first-place build will be award $300 per member, while second place will receive $200 each and third place will be given $100 each. The Minecraft Challenge is open to all CPP students, and all participants receive $10.
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