Argyle digital media academy students Triston Voth and Eric Balanecki
offer students a chance to don the goggles and get a glimpse of the new
school. Photo supplied SD44
by Jane Seyd, North Shore News
I’m standing in the vast, airy lobby of the new Argyle school, next
to a large welcome pole that stretches to the second floor mezzanine.
Beside me are a wide set of stairs, and to the right, a hallway. I
walk down the hall, peering through the glass into classrooms and enter a
woodwork room, where a series of green drill presses sit. I enter a
nearby classroom, peering around at the new desks and chairs set up
It’s a strange feeling, walking through a brand new school alone. Especially one that hasn’t been built yet.
No, this isn’t a form of time travel. But courtesy of a set of
virtual reality goggles, it’s a remarkably lifelike way of experiencing
what it will soon feel like to walk around the new Argyle Secondary.
Built by digital media academy students Triston Voth, 16, and Eric
Balanecki, 15, the virtual reality tour offers students and staff a
sneak peek into their new environment.
While virtual reality is most often used in video games to create
lifelike environments, it also has other commercial uses, such as in
real estate. “You can show people a house they want to buy” – including
one that hasn’t been built yet, said Balanecki.
When teachers suggested the rebuild of their own school as a
possible “pre vis” project, both students were intrigued by the
To get the program to work, the teens had to get legal permission to
use actual plans and a three-dimensional model of the project from the
architects, which they then imported into a virtual reality building
software program, Unreal Engine.
That sounds straight-forward, but it wasn’t, they admit. “There were lots of complications we ran into,” said Balanecki.
Then they set to work coding in realistic details like what floor and walls would look like.
It’s definitely the biggest project I’ve ever done,” he said. “We’d make it much more detailed if we had more time.”
“It’s like when you stage a home,” said digital media teacher Murray
Bulger. “You’re staging it virtually. You can virtualize almost any
environment you want.”
In practical terms, using a VR tool to show what architectural
details might look like in advance can be valuable, he added. “You can’t
build a house to test it out.”
The Argyle VR program was a hit with teachers who had a chance to
put on the goggles and go for a virtual stroll through the new school on
a recent professional development day, said principal Kim Jonat.
Bulger said when he recently went for a tour through the partially
finished school under construction, some parts of that were already
familiar to him because he’d already seen it – in virtual reality.
The teens plan to have a booth at the upcoming digital media youth
expo being held from noon to 3 p.m. Feb. 1 at Argyle, where members of
the public can test out the VR program and check out the virtual tour for themselves.
School district assistant superintendent Chris Atkinson (left)checks out
progress on the new Argyle Secondary with capital projects manager Mark
Thomson. photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News
Back in the real world, crews are now dry walling the west wing of the new school under construction next to the existing Argyle, and
working on interior finishing there while framing continues on the east
wing, said school district spokeswoman Maria Spitale-Leisk.
The school district is targeting September 2020 as the date students will start classes in the new school.