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Virtual Reality, Campus Tours and Resource Fairs Showcase UC San Diego at Triton Day

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Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Thousands of newly admitted students and their families visited campus on Saturday for Triton Day, an annual event that showcases all that UC San Diego has to offer. Students toured residence halls, attended academic presentations, watched performances by student organizations and much more. These visitors were also the first to try a new virtual reality experience based on UC San Diego technology: Shakeboarding. The activity allowed students to simulate surfing, experience an earthquake and wipe out—all on dry land.

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Outside the Career Services Center, a giant blue wave made out of foam pool noodles provided the backdrop for the Shakeboard—a surfboard mounted on a small shake table—which students were invited to ride one at a time. Once harnessed in and positioned on the board, the participant was given a headset and pair of Oculus Rift goggles to wear, and through the power of virtual reality, was transported to the waves of Black’s Beach. The board tilted and vibrated to simulate the feeling of surfing. For the finale, the participant was alerted of a 9.9 earthquake that just occurred on land, creating a giant wave and causing the surfer to “wipe out.”

“It was a really interesting experience; it felt so real!” said Nancy Vides, an admitted student who was exploring Triton Day with her sister, Cindy, a current UC San Diego Muir College student.

The simulation was designed as a new way for students to experience firsthand the breakthrough research and innovation that happens at UC San Diego. Only a few steps away from the exhibit, current students from the Division of Biological Sciences and Jacobs School of Engineering manned displays and demonstrations to explain the UC San Diego technology behind Shakeboarding: the unique algae-based sustainable surfboard and the large, high-performance outdoor shake table, capable of simulating a 9.9 earthquake.

Luis Camarda, one of the biology students, demonstrated how they turn vials of algae oil into the foam used to make the surfboard. He said many of the students and parents he talked with were really excited about the idea.

“Everyone can relate to the environment, whether or not they are interested in chemistry,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement around green tech and getting off of petroleum.”

At the engineering table, Triton Day guests were invited to “make their own earthquake.” Their table had a small structure made of K’NEX building blocks that was positioned on top of a miniature shake table. On the ground in front of the booth, a yoga mat with an accelerometer was linked to a computer and the shake table. When students jumped on the mat, the K’NEX structure shook, simulating an earthquake.

“It’s definitely not your traditional info booth,” said Armen Azizian, a structural engineering graduate student. Azizian said he enjoyed sharing the technology with admitted students one-on-one, including those who aren’t necessarily going to be engineering majors.

All across campus, UC San Diego was buzzing with activity designed to welcome new students and present the many opportunities available to Triton undergraduates. Student organizations filled Library Walk, and Town Square provided an information fair of student support services. The undergraduate colleges hosted residential life information sessions and tours, as well as resource fairs to showcase each college’s unique offerings in academic and student life. Visitors were invited to tour the Stuart Collection’s Fallen Star, attend a theatre rehearsal and visit community gardens on campus.

“My advice to new students is to take advantage of the opportunities here, and get involved with research,” said Marissa Tessman, a second-year graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry. Tessman transferred to UC San Diego for her undergraduate degree. “Getting involved with a lab [as an undergraduate] gave me real-world experience. I enjoyed it so much I decided to stay on as a graduate student.”

Triton Day also highlighted four new cutting-edge engaged learning tools launched by the Teaching + Learning Commons: The Research Experience and Applied Learning (REAL) Portal, which makes it easy for students to search for internships, research opportunities and other activities; the Co-Curricular Record (CCR), an official record of leadership and volunteer activities that can be shared with potential employers; Enhanced Electronic Transcript, a redesigned online academic record that includes broader contextual information about courses; and E-Portfolio, which allows students to visually tell their academic and professional story. UC San Diego is one of the first universities in the country to offer these tools that not only engage students, but provide experiential learning opportunities to help develop important transferable skills that employers look for when interviewing candidates.

In the heart of campus, across from the Triton statue, students and their families lined up along a big white tent sponsored by Microsoft. Inside, a bank of computers was available for admits to sign their Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) and officially start their UC San Diego journey.

“I love San Diego,” said Tabitha Ranclin. A resident of Pico Rivera in Los Angeles County, Ranclin said she had visited the campus a couple of times before. On this visit, she decided to make it her academic home. Leaving the tent with a big smile, Ranclin said she had just signed her SIR; she’ll be starting at Warren College in the fall.