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Jaren Wilkey, BYU
Students on the virtual-tour team look over the map used to plan the project. They learned skills outside their areas of study as well as the value of collaboration.

PROVO, Utah — Using state-of-the-art cameras with fish-eye lenses that capture 360-degree images, 15 BYU students from multiple disciplines created a slick, comprehensive virtual tour of the campus.

The tour is online now and can be used like a video game, too. It includes embedded videos, social media plugins, historical information, student advice and hidden items that unlock prizes, according to a BYU press release.

The students worked together in a class during spring term after XplorIT, a company in California that specializes in 360-degree virtual tours, offered its technology to BYU information technology professor Derek Hansen.

Hansen studies how technology and games can be used for the public good, the release says. He oversaw the gaming-style aspects of the tour.

Hansen and Jeff Sheets taught the spring term course for students who wanted to participate, though the project lasted six months. The students came from the departments of communications, theatre and media arts, information technology and music.

Sheets was tasked with helping the students collaborate and get the most out of their creativity and varied backgrounds. Sheets is the director of BYU's Laycock Center for Creative Collaboration in the Arts.

The Laycock Center opened in 2003 and is part of the College of Fine Arts and Communications. The center was established to teach creative collaboration in an effort to develop creative leaders.

The visual tour fit its mandate.

“Our goal was to get totally different students working together,” Sheets said in the release. “This project really stretched the students and provided them with hands-on learning they wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise.”

The Laycock Center provides funding to faculty and students for creative projects, like the world's biggest water balloon fight and Vittana, an organization that allows people to loan as little as $25 to students in a developing country for their education and other efforts to fund Vittana.

The center also collaborated last year with the BYU Women's Chorus when it wanted to spice up its winter concert. One of the videos that came out of the collaboration, "Here Comes the Sun," was used again when the chorus performed at BYU's Homecoming Spectacular this month.

The Laycock Center funds and tries to create projects for students with what it calls master mentors to foster innovation and development, especially across disciplines.

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com