Building Virtual Worlds website

Communal knowledge base

Project organizer, Web designer, Web developer (HTML, Drupal)

Building Virtual Worlds Show

Building Virtual Worlds (BVW) is a twenty-four unit class offered as part of the Entertainment Technology Masters program at Carnegie Mellon University. A crash course in rapid prototyping and interdisciplinary teamwork, BVW requires a small army of teaching assistants to run—these TAs provide structure, coordination, tech support and guidance as students teams build interactive virtual experiences on a fast-paced schedule. The class culminates in the TA-led production of a high-tech stage show in which students perform selected worlds in front of (and with participation from) a live audience.

I experienced BVW first as a student, and then as Co-Head TA of an eleven-person TA team the following year. As our TA team took on the complex task of managing the course, it became apparent that BVW suffered from impaired institutional memory. With members of each year's former TA team graduating the summer before the next TA team started, much of the hard-won knowledge of years past was lost, inaccessible, or scattered. TAs had little time to document information, and with no continuity in organization from year to year, what documentation did exist was often partially or entirely outdated. I was impressed with how well the BVW course had managed to run thus far despite this handicap, and thrilled at the thought of what future BVW classes could accomplish if given tools to build on the accumulated knowledge of years past.

While Co-Head TA, I combed through old resources to create a single, up-to-date BVW wiki that could be viewed and edited by anyone in our TA team. All TAs were encouraged to help expand and improve this knowledgebase. Upon graduation, I proposed that the Entertainment Technology Center hire me to continue this effort by creating a comprehensive "living document" for the use of BVW staff, TAs, and students. They did, and using the open-source content management system Drupal I created a BVW website tailored to the needs of the course. The site features multiple levels of login-based access, wiki-style editing, and TA-created custom tools for tasks such as assigning interdisciplinary student teams.