Dream University Challenge

promotional banner for the Dream University Challenge. There is a design on the left of a person reclining on a half moon and looking into the sky. The person is wearing headphones, and there is a sketch of Rush Rhees Library in the background. On the right at the top are the Studio X, River Campus Libraries, and iZone wordmarks. Underneath is the text, "Dream University Challenge. Submit your space for a chance to win a prize."


The current social distancing guidelines mean there aren’t as many opportunities to casually interact with people you pass on campus, less time to catch-up with friends after a club meeting, fewer of the informal interactions that help us build shared experiences and community.

Join the Dream University Challenge to imagine, design, and build virtual university spaces that can provide opportunities to connect with your friends.

Learn design thinking and hands-on technical skills. Work in teams to build your dream space using Mozilla Hubs, a user-friendly virtual reality platform. Submit your space for a chance to win a prize.

The challenge is co-hosted by Studio X and Barbara J. Burger iZone with the support of River Campus Libraries and Hajim School of Engineering.

REGISTER HERE by January 5th, midnight: bit.ly/DreamSign-Up


You are welcome to register as an individual (we will have a workshop to find teammates) or as a full or partial team (max four people). We look forward to seeing you at the challenge! All participants who complete the challenge will receive a certificate indicating the skills learned, and there will be prizes in different categories at the end of the challenge that will be given after the voting phase.

There will be Zoom Open Hours and a Slack Channel for you to ask questions and get help throughout the Challenge. No experience with virtual reality is necessary, just bring your creativity and your dreams for a virtual University.


  • Any Undergraduate or Graduate student of the University of Rochester is eligible to participate
  • The Dream University Challenge begins on Thursday, January 7th and ends on Thursday, January 14th, with the Celebration and Announcement of Winners event being held on Wednesday, January 20th.
  • Teams may contain up to four team members.
  • By submitting a virtual room in Mozilla Hubs, participants agree to all of the submission requirements, including confidentiality, selection, and voting process.
  • All submissions must include a virtual space in Mozilla Hubs and a written statement that describes your concept and acknowledges any sources used to create your virtual space.
  • Studio X will have access to all ideas at the end of the challenge, including those that didn’t receive an award.
  • You may use outside expertise or incorporate ready-made assets in creating your virtual room. However, we expect that the majority of the room will be of your creation. In other words, the concept and design should be yours, and we ask that you acknowledge your sources in your final presentation.
  • All designs will be shared on Mozilla Hubs.
  • Teams are expected to abide by the University’s Code of Conduct at all times.


All times are EST. All events are via Zoom. Let the organizers know if you have time conflicts with mandatory workshops (emails are at the bottom of the package). You do not need to tell us if you are going to miss the optional workshops, or the virtual office hours.

Step 1: Design Phase (Jan 7). Participate in a workshop facilitated by the iZone to help you imagine and design your ideal university space.

Mandatory | January 7th, Thursday: 1:30pm EST | Orientation and Kickoff for the Challenge

Mandatory | January 7th, Thursday: 2:00pm-3:00pm EST | iZone Design Thinking Workshop

Orientation & Workshop Recording

Step 2: Technical Phase (Jan 8). Participate in a workshop facilitated by Studio X to learn how to build virtual reality spaces in Mozilla Hubs.

Mandatory | January, 8th, Friday : 2:00pm-3:00pm EST | Studio X Hubs Workshop

Step 3: Build Phase (Jan 8 – 14). Time for you to create your dream university space and submit it by the deadline.

Mandatory | January 14th, Thursday: midnight | Submit your dream university virtual room

Step 4: Voting Phase (Jan 15 – 19). Explore the spaces you and your friends have built. Vote on your favorites.

Mandatory | January 15th – 19th : all day | Public Voting on Submissions

Step 5: Celebration Phase (Jan 20). Celebrate the Challenge winners and your new virtual university.

Mandatory | January 20th, Wednesday: 4:00pm EST | Celebration of the Challenge and Announcing the Winners

Mentor Support

iZone and Studio X will be hosting mentor hours throughout the challenge to provide you 1:1 mentoring time about your ideas, designs, prototypes and answer any questions you may have. A schedule will be posted here soon.

  • iZone consultants specialize in areas of idea development, project management, early stage brainstorming and problem solving
  • Studio X consultants specialize in areas of prototype development, Mozilla Hubs, virtual reality and spaces, and design consulting
  • If you have any technical or logistical questions about the Challenge, please contact the organizers listed at the bottom of this document and do not schedule 1:1 time through the mentor hours.

Sign-up for Zoom Mentor Hours: bit.ly/ZoomMentorHours

1/8, 11:00AM–12:00PMZoe WisbeyiZone; Designhttps://rochester.zoom.us/my/zoewisbey 
1/11, 3:00PM–4:00PMSarah GeriniZone; Designhttps://rochester.zoom.us/my/sgerin
1/12, 2:00PM–3:00PMEmily SherwoodStudio X; Hubshttps://discord.com/invite/UUxeUh6
1/13, 11:30AM–12:30PMMeaghan MoodyStudio X; Hubshttps://discord.com/invite/UUxeUh6
1/14, 10:00AM–11:00AMEmily SherwoodStudio X; Hubshttps://discord.com/invite/UUxeUh6
1/14, 2:00PM–3:00PMMuhammed El-SayedStudio X; Hubshttps://discord.com/invite/UUxeUh6

Prizes & Success Tips

There will be five categories with awards. A panel of judges will vote on the top prize. The other four categories will be open for public voting. All submissions will automatically be considered for each category.

Judges (panel to be announced soon!) will vote on:

  • Best Overall Virtual Space

Public will vote on:

  • Most Creative Concept
  • Most Desirable Campus Space
  • Most Out of the Box
  • Most Likely to Facilitate Connections

Who is eligible to vote:

  • Anyone!

All teams will receive: 

  • A certificate in Virtual World Design that shows you participated in resume building learning opportunities in Design Thinking, Project Management Skills, Prototyping, and creation of a Virtual Space to foster community.

Winning Teams will receive:

  • UR branded Google Cardboard for each team member, which will let you view your creation in Virtual Reality using your mobile phone
  • Cash prize of $100 for each team member for the Best Overall Virtual Space category voted on by the panel of judges

Judging rubric / Public voting rules

  • Clarity of concept
  • Execution of concept
  • Opportunities for connection and collaboration
  • Originality of concept

Success tips

  • Be creative. If you could imagine your ideal space for collaborating, learning, and connecting with your friends, what type of space would you create?
  • Be welcoming. Create a space that is safe and student-friendly.
  • Be realistic. While this is a virtual space–so anything is possible–remember that you have a relatively short time to build. Creating a well designed and complete space is better than trying to do too much.
  • Be a team. You might be great at imagining a space, or designing, or technology, or writing a rationale for your team’s concept. What are you good at? How can you contribute to the team?
  • Be UR. Remember that this is intended as a fun learning experience to help build our community.

Some Final Notes


All participants are welcome to join the Studio X Discord Server. We will have a dedicated channel for the Challenge where you can ask questions and get help: https://discord.com/invite/UUxeUh6

Contact Information of Organizers

Emily Sherwood
Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab

Muhammed El-Sayed
Immersive Technologies Developer
Karp Library Fellow (Studio X)

Deniz Cengiz
iZone Design Thinking Fellow
Karp Library Fellow (iZone)

Mike Arinarkin
iZone Design Thinking Fellow

Robert Petrosyan
iZone Marketing and Graphic Design Fellow
Karp Library Fellow (iZone)

Nefle Nesli Oruç
Public Programs Coordinator
Karp Library Fellow (Studio X)

Nadine Eldallal
iZone Social Media Fellow