Project Description

The Virtual Hike of the Wintergreen Gorge project was a unique opportunity for Penn State Behrend to showcase one of its local gems to the wider community. The project, which took place from February to June 2021, was the result of the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations approaching the VAR Lab at Behrend with a challenge: create an interactive and high-quality virtual tour of the Wintergreen Gorge to present at Penn State’s annual We Are Week. 

We Are Week is a series hosted by Penn State to engage with alumni and the wider community, and in the year 2021, it had to be hosted virtually due to COVID restrictions. This presented a unique opportunity for Behrend to participate by showcasing the Wintergreen Gorge to a wider audience. And the VAR Lab was the only group on campus with the capability to produce in this type of media. 

The team planned, captured, and processed 360-degree photos around the Wintergreen Gorge and other campus locations, learning the virtual tour-building software and building the user interface from scratch. They determined what accompanying media would be beneficial, delegated the gathering process to project collaborators, and ultimately integrated the gathered media into the final product. 

The result was a comprehensive virtual tour of the Wintergreen Gorge that consisted of over a hundred 12k Adaptive HDR Panoramas, a virtual trail network that consisted of approximately 2,000 meters of trails with four unique trailhead starting locations, and an easy-to-navigate user interface that allowed users to freely roam around the gorge. The tour also included a valuable collection of information about the gorge that was accessible to users from within the program. 

The team consisted of Marcus Jacobs (undergraduate project manager), Dr. Chris Shelton (Director of the VAR Lab), Dr. Sherri Mason (Director of Behrend Sustainability) and Kristen Comstock (Assistant Director of Alumni Relations). Overall, the Virtual Hike of the Wintergreen Gorge was a success, showcasing the beauty of the Wintergreen Gorge to a wider audience and providing a valuable resource for those interested in learning more about this local gem. 

View the full Virtual Hike at this link.