Queen’s Engineering hosts recruitment event through Minecraft
April 23, 2021
Queen’s Engineering has reinvented the school tour – in the world’s most popular virtual environment.
On April 21, almost 100 prospective Queen’s Engineering students took to the virtual campus – and experienced Queen’s in a whole new way. They toured the campus, hunted for eggs, and joined a lively Q&A with the Dean – on a dedicated Minecraft server that faithfully replicates the campus itself.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Kevin Deluzio, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “The Minecraft version of Queen’s campus is astonishingly well built – you see the campus in a whole new way. COVID-19 can cancel our traditional tours, but it can’t stop Queen’s Engineers from innovating.”
While the dean was a celebrated guest at the event, the real star was arguably the campus itself. After a year of work, and thousands of person hours, the finished product is a Minecraft rendition of the Queen’s Campus.
“Students and even some alumni have really put their passion behind building parts of campus, often places special to them, and continue to build as part of the community.” says Alex McKinnon, co-president of QUCraft, the Queen’s Minecraft team. “Campus building exteriors are almost completely finished; we’re now approaching completion on the interiors of about 20 per cent of the campus, with more being built out every day. Especially during a pandemic year, helping re-create the campus online has been a way for us to stay connected with it, and to each other.”
With live chat hosted via the voice platform Discord, the Minecraft campus served as a proxy for the real thing. The Queen’s Engineering event began with a campus tour, with one of Queen’s regular campus tour guides taking students to key locations.
“The one key difference was teleporting,” says Shannon Chessman, a tour guide with Queen’s Department of Student Affairs. “It saves a lot of time when you can pop from one site of the campus to the other instantaneously.”
The abbreviated tour covered key campus locations and features, including residences, the campus’ Athletics & Recreation Centre, the library, John Deutsch University Centre (JDUC), and of course Beamish-Munro Hall, the hub of the engineering faculty.
Then the egg hunt began: while Queen’s Engineering students talked about the faculty and answered questions on Discord, visitors were free to roam the campus in Minecraft, looking for brightly-coloured eggs, with the top “hunter” winning a Queen’s gift package.
“We really wanted to give students a chance to explore the Queen’s campus, and explore this amazingly rendered version of the real-world Queen’s experience,” says Kendy Sandy, event coordinator at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “Being able to have a real conversation with prospective students on Discord, while they could explore and discover the campus at the same time, was a real treat.”
As students explored – and sought eggs – Dean Deluzio took to the virtual stage, answering questions students had submitted on Discord and some of the big questions about engineering school – ranging from what a typical day is like to the kinds of careers engineers can expect following graduation.
“I’m always impressed with the kinds of thoughtful questions our prospective students ask,” says Dean Deluzio. “Even though we can’t meet in person, seeing people – or their avatars – in Minecraft, and talk to them on Discord, was a really valuable experience.”
At the end of the day, the blend of innovation and technology was ultimately secondary to the feeling of community the event engendered.
“I’m proud to be dean of the greatest community in Canada,” Dean Deluzio says. “To the best of my knowledge, this recruitment event is a first in the nation, if not the world, and it’s been an entirely community effort. It’s community that created a virtual Queen’s campus; the QUCraft team has done some astonishing work on an amazing platform.
“Interacting with people in Minecraft, and talking to them on Discord, brought us to ‘campus’ in an amazing way. We could share what the Queen’s community is like with some talented young minds from around the world. Physical or virtual, that’s what our recruitment events are all about.”