Virtual Lake Eola Park is a project being produced this fall by digital media students working at the E2i Creative Studio in internships funded by Workforce Central Florida. The park is currently being built using the Unity 3D game engine. The opportunity to work on this project is offering them valuable work experience in the growing field of gaming and simulation. Their responsibilities range from constructing the 3D models of all the objects within the environment, to programming the interactions users will be able to have as they explore virtual Lake Eola.
In the early stages of development now, the final version of the simulation will be used in a National Science Foundation application as a learning environment in a research project focusing on high-functioning young adults on the autism spectrum. The goal is to explore tools and techniques that might increase socialization success for these young adults as they move through college in STEM disciplines and eventually STEM careers. Having a virtual representation of the famous downtown Orlando landmark will allow researchers to use both the computer environment, and eventually the face-to-face environment, in this exciting research. Built into the park will be a variety of objects that can be interacted with, collected and examined. Players will be given tasks to complete within the game that offer them points used to unlock rewards. As they progress along further through the objectives they will eventually need to cooperatively work with another person to reach more complex goals.