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Sunday, May 16, 2021

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Carter Andrews ('20) Carter Andrews ('20)
 


From Virtual Reality Club to a Career

How student organizations opened new worlds for this SDSU computer science major.
By Aaron Burgin
 

“The club experience provides that shared experience and really is what gives students an edge when it comes to hiring and developing skills employers are looking for.”

Carter Andrews grew up in an Aztec household. His mother is an Aztec. The San Diego State University campus was a straight shot down Interstate 15 from his family home in North County. 

But his Aztec experience brought him an unexpected twist – the clubs.

No, the recent graduate’s fond memories don’t refer to the San Diego nightlife. 

He is talking about the Aztec Game Lab, where he learned to develop games. And the club that he holds nearest to his heart, the Virtual Reality Club, which taught him how to imagine new worlds and frontiers beyond the three dimensions in front of his face. 

“The highlight of my college career was being able to lead the Virtual Reality Club as president and collaborate on VR projects with faculty,” said Andrews (’20). 

SDSU has more than 300 student clubs and organizations that allow students to explore their interests, develop leadership skills and prepare for the professional world. Every year, thousands of students like Andrews find their friends and futures in SDSU’s student organizations.

“The club experience provides that shared experience and really is what gives students an edge when it comes to hiring and developing skills employers are looking for,” Andrews said. “You pick up a lot of those that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up in class.”

Andrews credits the computer science department for promoting student organizations to students as a “high-impact practice” that can enhance their student experience. 

“They focused on providing the foundation and encouraging you to chase what you wanted to do,” Andrews said. “They really encouraged us to join clubs and organizations. Those clubs and organizations were able to come into class and talk to the students. That’s how I found the Game Lab, which eventually led me to find the Virtual Reality Club.”

Andrews joined the Aztec Game Lab during his freshman year. A year later, Instructional Technology Services launched the Virtual Immersive Teaching and Learning (VITaL) initiative, which provided virtual, augmented and mixed reality tools for use across campus, as well as a space to use them, which became known as the VITaL lab. 

It was that fall, which coincided with a boom in VR technology, that the Virtual Reality Club started and met in the same lab space as the Game Lab. Andrews was intrigued by the club and started attending meetings. He was hooked.

“I had a really good time, we were learning how to make VR from the ground up and discovering the possibility of that tech together,” Andrews said. 

By 2019, Andrews was named president of the VR Club and worked alongside club members and ITS staff to create virtual reality games, such as “Galaxy Gazer.” This game created during his presidency teaches players “how the concept of parallax can be used to determine the position of celestial bodies relative to earth.” 

“We at ITS have observed directly how this enthusiasm for learning and engagement is fostered between student leaders like Carter, the faculty mentors and the students within the organizations,” said Sean Hauze, director of ITS. 

Andrews’ Aztec experience was so enjoyable that he didn’t go too far after graduation: He now works in ITS and will pursue his master’s degree in computer science at SDSU in fall 2021. 

“I eventually got to know the folks at ITS who supported Virtual Reality club, and I found that their interests in promoting extended reality education aligned with mine, so I asked them for a job when I graduated,” Andrews said. “Since then I've been working on various ITS projects in the domains of virtual reality, web programming and academic media.”

Andrews’ colleagues said his decision to stay with SDSU and his current job performance are directly rooted in his college experience. 

"Carter's enthusiasm to devote to the SDSU community his computer science skillset – which is in very high demand within the job market – as well as his customer support soft skills demonstrate the leadership integrity he developed as president of the SDSU VR Club and Aztec Game Lab,” said Hauze. 

For more on how to join or support the Virtual Reality Club, go to Facebook.com/VRClubSDSU. Find out more about the Aztec Game Lab at Aztecgamelab.com.