More Purdue students make virtual reality their reality

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Many Purdue University students leave the state after graduation, creating economic loss. It’s more commonly known as the brain drain. But the university is now reversing that loss by investing in fields such as gaming.

Purdue is enrolling more gaming students than ever. The major is only two years old, but it’s already making up more than 40 percent of the computer graphics department.

“I’ve always been a gamer,” said Noah Bannister, a game design student.

It’s a dream that Bannister has had for a while.

“Got a hold of Gameboy when maybe I was like 5,” he said.

Fast forward to today — Bannister’s professor calls him the department’s secret weapon. He eventually hopes to be able to design, code and build games from the bottom up.

“Our best students, the rock stars, they would always scatter to one of the coasts. Those jobs are in short supply here,” said associate professor David Whittinghill.

That’s why Whittinghill has built a program with the resources these students need to stay in Indiana.

“We have to give them a reason to stay. If we can have more of those people here, I’m thinking the jobs will come to them,” Whittinghill said.

In fact, Jordan McGraw has hopes to one day start his own gaming studio in the state. But for now, he’s building his own virtual reality game.

Students Jordyn Lukomski and Amanda Luginbuhl are aspiring to one day be video game artists who could potentially find a job in the state.

The two created a game that mimics a grasshopper dissection.

“So students that can’t dissect because of moral or ethical values or students that get grossed out by dissections, this would be an alternative,” said Lukomski.

So just like virtual reality, these students are here to stay.

Whittinghill has his own virtual reality business here in Indiana. He is looking to eventually hire some of his students.