Dream Rush Rhees


  • Siladitya Khan
  • Affiliation: Graduate Student, Biomedical Engineering
  • Carolina Lion He
  • Affiliation: Undergraduate Student, Digital Media Studies
  • Sydney Santiago
  • Affiliation: Undergraduate Student, BCS Neuroscience and Neuropsychology
  • Debamitra Chakraborty
  • Affiliation: Graduate Student, Material Science Program

Hubs Model Link


Vision Statement

The motivating goal for this endeavour is spelt out in the challenge page itself [1] and is

“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.”

As we worked on this project together along with our interdisciplinary team of both graduate and undergraduate students, we came back to these words back and forth. We set out to build a virtual space both inspiring as well as functional to our fellow members of the UR community.


We are motivated by the imposing yet inspiring structure of the magnificent Rush Rhees library and the associate Eastman Quad around it. We questioned ourselves, what is it that we most missed about campus? The answer to it was simple: The outdoor spaces in and around the Quad.

We were also aware of the fact that not all members of the university community resided on the same campus, also not everyone did share the same opportunities to network and get-in touch with one another during these troubled times. What we were really aiming at by this, is a way to bring around diverse members of our student community – Eastman School of Music (ESM) and Medical School folks as well – to feel connected through events that would reminisce them of the normal times.

The Eastman Quad had been a center of ESM concerts during the summer, which gave us the idea of setting up an open air auditorium to stream ESM performances. We hope a recreation of open study spaces around the Quad as well as the buildings surrounding it, coupled with publicly streamed ESM concerts in a virtual setting would in some way lift the spirits of everyone!


  • Ideation
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Publishing & Documentation


Our initial design idea was to recreate the area around Rush Rhees Library comprising the Library itself, the surrounding buildings in the Quad and an open air theatre to stream ESM performances. Our effort was to bring the library set-up outdoors right into nature and we believed no other place in the River Campus can be more suited than the beautiful Eastman Quad in front of Rhus Rhees to implement our dream into reality.

We prepared a rough design of our idea that we present here:

Final Design

Aerial View

Target Audience

We aim to target with our design the local University of Rochester student community (both Undergraduate and Graduate students) to cater to the lack of connectivity that has resulted in people feeling cut out of the outside world. They are tied down by being stuck in isolation for most of the time, smaller class year and lack of robust networking environments. So we aim to address the question as to How might we solve the lack of connectivity with diverse student groups that would otherwise integrate the community across multiple colleges and campuses.

Further, we aim to build a space that would enable folks to relax and connect and be more present with each other between classes that enables more casual interactions.

Therefore, we…

  • Color coded spaces to ensure silent study zones for students
  • Live music Zone for cheerful folks
  • Ping-pong table for short breaks and refuel
  • Most grad students work in the dark either stuck in basement laboratories or in cramped office spaces under artificial light, so a study space in open greens with natural light, helps in bringing spirits up.

Design Procedure

We believed at first that It was okay to dream a little, but we should keep in mind that we want to utilize the outside space and create a community across campuses and how Rush Rhees is the hub of UR. The more we can dream up of how we can do that, would be helpful.

List of Public Assets Used:

  1. Google Polly

List of Assets Acquired from the Dream University Challenge Team:

  1. Morey Hall
  2. Rush Rhees
  3. Eastman statue
  4. Groundboi
  5. Quadfox

Challenges Faced

Working with a diverse group students is always helpful but there were obvious challenges faced

  1. Group comprised of people with diverse talents which helped us navigate all aspects of it but having not being co-located made us solely rely on digital tools
  2. Lack of sustainable internet bandwidth, which resulted in re-doing some of our stuff as they got lost as the internet snapped. Although we were careful to save the model in frequent intervals

Key Takeaways

  1. We navigated how to team work over tools like mozilla having only a single user login
  2. Established connections with the diverse student community which was otherwise challenging
  3. We  learnt  the  importance  of  teamwork  and  task  distribution  according  to  our own strengths

Above all… Made new friends 🙂

Further Implementations

Since we had to work with a timeline of one week, but in the future we would like to implement a glass ceiling for the reading spaces outside, so that it gives both spatial stability and selectivity to our music audiences. It is also an interesting idea since the glass enclosures would be able to provide insulation in case the weather gets snowy.


  1. Welcome Package obtained from the Dream University Challenge website
  2. Video Link used: https://vimeo.com/221798773

UR Haven


  • Miguel Yakouma
  • Koshala Mathuranayagam
  • Joey Chan
  • Sophea Urbi Biswas

Hubs Model Link



At the main entrance we have a representation of the yellow jacket with the image of Rocky to create a space that reminds people of campus. The intersection in front that leads to the place symbolizes an ecological environment to welcome everyone. There’ s Pee Wee Herman, the American comedian who will share a word of welcome to everyone on the way to the building. It’s about putting a smile on everyone’s faces and making the place a relaxing and accessible environment. After passing by the actor, there is only one door that leads to this magnificent and collaborative place.

Dining Room

The dining room is an area for people to dine, study, relax, and play all in one cafe. The room’s flooring is covered mostly by dark wood except for the studying zone and the gaming zone to provide an amiable environment for the users. When users first enter the room they will see two employees that will greet them. There is a seating area in the middle of the room with chairs of various materials to accommodate the users’ different tastes. We created a buffet table with a variety of food that allows people to gather and dine. Soft piano music playing from the jukebox is added for a relaxing touch. There is also a space for users to sit and chat around a warm fireplace and TV to make the space feel homey. In the gaming area people can play board games such as monopoly or chess, or hang out with their friends and play some tic-tac-toe on the whiteboard or hangman by using the pen tool in Hubs. All of these activities make the virtual scene interactive and helps people feel connected. There is also a quieter study area that will allow users to use the desktops if needed combined with the whiteboards to express their ideas and collaborate with others.

The Clover Theatre Room

The theatre room, or as we like to call it, the Clover (because it’s shaped like a 3-leafed clover ☘️), is a space where people can go to play online games or watch movies and TV shows together while virtually being in the presence of other people. The dark room simulates a theatre setting for our movie lovers and doubles as an arcade for our videogamers. People can interact by finding a seat and sharing their screen to simulate watching a movie together. The architecture of this room provides many benefits to the people using it. The multiple booths allow for many different screenings to be going on at the same time. The curved walls of the booths provide a level of privacy for watchers so other screenings don’t distract them. The clustered seating allows people to gather in small groups and have intimate conversations, encouraging the feeling of connectedness. When a person first walks into the room, the floor is designed in a way that they can easily survey who and what is at each booth and decide where they would like to go. The abundant space in the middle allows people to easily switch between booths, interact with their friends, or make new ones! The Clover’s architectural design promotes ease of movement, the feeling of connectedness and intimacy, and the opportunity to bond with others over shared interests.


The rooftop not only gives you the opportunity to  relax and enjoy snowfall but also offers 4 interactive games for you to have a good time with your friends. In the snowman building area, you can build snowmen by selecting objects and dragging them up, down, sideways, towards and away from you. You can put the pieces together and decorate your own snowman with accessories (don’t worry about running out of pieces, you can build an unlimited number of snowmen fully geared with their bright colored caps and sunglasses! ). There is only one rule to follow in this game- say ‘Hi’! to the person next to you and start a conversation. The instructions board for the snowman building area promotes this lively attitude and helps people connect. The next area is an interactive snowball fighting zone that allows people to pick up the balls and have a snowball fight. The area following is the Snow-Castle-building-area that offers you the chance to be creative and build your own snow castle with friends. In the seating area you can chill and enjoy the snowfall, have a good conversation with friends (or people you just met) and at the same time roast marshmallows. You can even hear the fire cackling. Being close to nature means being in a relaxing environment to have a meaningful conversation with your closest friends. This reminds the students of the times when they were on campus and enjoyed a chilly day out with friends by the fireplace, roasting marshmallows. A deep dive into nostalgia.

Our UR Haven allows students to watch movies in the Clover, dine with friends in the cafe, and interact virtually through snowball fights, snowman building, and marshmallow roasting. The diverse environments of UR Haven promotes connectedness.


Dream University Challenge

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