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[Exclusive] A Group of Teenage Girls Built VR Worlds with Tilt Brush

For Pioneer Works' week-long Art x Code workshop, 10 high school girls learned the basics of VR world-building.
Images courtesy Pioneer Works

Last week a group of teenage girls got the chance to learn about game design and the future of art and technology from the best in the business. Over the course of five days, the Red Hook art space at Pioneer Works teamed up with Google's Made with Code initiative to ignite the minds of 10 young women from the tri-state area. In a workshop called Art x Code, the girls met artists and technologists who taught them about programming, game design, generative graphics, and virtual reality, and in the process, they created a slew of stunning digital worlds.


The project was based on research indicating that nearly three quarters of middle school girls are interested in computer science, while less than 1% remain interested in high school. The girls began by recreating IRL games with simple code, building up to more complex tasks like programming a robot to navigate a maze, and eventually, they built virtual worlds with professional game design software Unity.

We've seen artists like Glen Keane use Tilt Brush, effectively VR's answer to Microsoft Paint, but Art x Code offered a chance to see what tomorrow's artists can make with today's cutting edge tools. Ranging from wonderful interpretations of mundane scenes to the wildly surreal, these 3D drawings make flesh all the lessons learned throughout the Art x Code workshops.

"The girls exceeded our expectations almost immediately," David Sheinkopf, an Art x Code teacher, and the Technology Integrator and Co-Director of Education at Pioneer Works, told The Creators Project. Sheinkopf was accompanied by a killer team of female artists and programmers, including self-proclaimed "nerd and feminist" Cassie Tarakajian, a veteran Pioneer Works resident currently researching Processing at ITP, Israeli multimedia artist Ziv Schneider, who's lately combining experimental photography and virtual reality, and the Red Hook Initiative's Katherine Ortiz, a teacher and technologist who has been supporting tech literacy in Red Hook for years.


Among a vibrant community of girl-oriented hackathons and feminist tech events organized by groups like Girls Who Code and We Hack Too, Sheinkopf considers Art x Code to be particularly successful. "[The girls] were able to take abstract concepts from the games and apply them to programming—with some girls, we were eventually able to talk about coding conceptually rather than in 'this-goes-there' terms," he said. "This is a sign that they truly internalized the underlying philosophy of what we were teaching." Below, The Creators Project presents an exclusive look at the girls' Tilt Brush drawings, demonstrating the virtual worlds young girls can build when they have the tools, the motivation, and a place to do it.

Learn more about Art x Code on Pioneer Works' website.


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