Concussion testing project wins RamReality Create-a-thon

Fifty participants from Colorado State University, Front Range Community College, and Florida International University worked in 10 teams to develop virtual reality experiences from scratch in one weekend at the third annual CSU RamReality Create-a-thon. The event, sponsored by HP and CSU, concluded Sunday, Oct. 21 – and one team went home with a check for the $3,000 first-place prize.

“I thought the Create-a-thon was an interesting opportunity to test myself. I had some basic game development and rapid prototyping skills, but I had never put them to the test before,” said Alex Mallot, CSU computer science senior and member of the winning team, VR-oom VR-oom.

Teams not only faced technical challenges, but also a looming time limit.

“The hardest part of our project was the time constraint. We had to make a fully functioning demo by the end of the 48 hours,” said Karrem Youssef, CSU computer science senior and member of VR-oom VR-oom. “I think a lot of the other teams struggled, but we figured it out with a bunch of Red Bull and other snacks.”

How it works

Team VR-oom VR-oom won first place with a virtual reality program designed to evaluate an athlete’s readiness to return to sports after a concussion. The experience includes a base test looking at sensory abilities, focus, balance, and memory to objectively measure levels of cognitive impairment.

“A big problem with a lot of concussion tests is that they are just question tests being administered and taken by people who are motivated to get back out on the field,” said Mallot. “With this experience, we have an objective measurement of the level of impairment that you can’t handwave or just say ‘oh, I feel fine.’”

The idea for the project was submitted by Jaclyn Stephens, assistant professor in Occupational Therapy.

Collaborative ideas

This year, campus faculty and staff were invited to submit ideas for the virtual and augmented reality projects developed during the Create-a-Thon. Fifteen ideas from the College of Liberal Arts, College of Health and Human Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and College of Natural Sciences were submitted to the event idea board and seven were chosen. Teams that chose a faculty-submitted idea and placed first, second or third in the competition won an additional $500, and faculty who submitted the idea will receive funding to continue working on the virtual project.

“We are looking forward to carrying out this project a little further. One thing we are missing right now is that we have never tested this on someone with a concussion – just some severely sleep-deprived computer science students,” said Mallot. “It will be interesting to get some actual, valid data past the program and make some tweaks based on that.”

Other honors

The second-place prize went to The Climate Changers, who developed “The Path We’re On: 2020,” which places the user in different scenarios affected by climate change. One scenario included a coastal town in Louisiana slowly being engulfed by rising sea levels. The idea for this project was submitted by political science professor Michael Hamilton.

Team ProteVisus won third place and created an app modeling 3D protein structures found in the Protein Data Bank. The project idea was submitted by Aaron Sholders in the biochemistry and molecular biology department to be used as a teaching tool. The experience was developed on a Google Cardboard platform so it can be viewed on a smartphone or in a virtual reality headset.

The Hello World! team received the Outstanding Artistry Award for creating realistic 3-D models of several different types of eyes, including a dog eye, a healthy human eye, and a human eye clouded with cataracts. Kathryn Wotman in the ophthalmology department in the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital submitted the idea for this virtual experience.

The Outstanding Technical Award went to the FBI Surveillance Van team, which created an interactive visualization of a home assistant’s network traffic.

Team Manipulation Hertz won the Land Grant Prize for their project “Making Waves.” This project idea, submitted by Sarah Sloane in the English department, included a virtual soundboard with interactive sound waves that created different frequencies and music.

To read about all the teams, participants, and projects developed during the weekend, visit the RamReality website.