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La Junta students build virtual Bent's Old Fort - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

La Junta students build virtual Bent's Old Fort

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LA JUNTA -

 High school and college students in La Junta are working on a project to virtually recreate Bent's Old Fort, making the historic site accessible from anywhere in the world.

The Immersive Education Club is using Minecraft to start, and will eventually graduate to advanced engineering-based software. The students say the project is both fun and educational.

Instructor Meagan Hotchkiss-Trejo says, "As far as history and technology, this is the perfect program to be in."

The club consists of about 20 students from La Junta High School and Otero Junior College. They meet every Wednesday afternoon, and aim to successfully build a 3D, online version for anyone to visit and see the old Santa Fe Trail trading post for themselves.

High school junior Matt Frankmore says, "When I was little I used to think, 'oh, that's just Bent's Fort,' but as I've grown older I've realized what it really is now, how diverse a history it is for this area."

"The fact that somebody in Japan or something can take a virtual tour of Bent's Fort is just incredible," adds college IT Director Mark Allen.

Right now, the club is just in the early stages, letting the students familiarize themselves with online building through the popular game Minecraft. "He didn't tell us we were going to be playing a game," says Frankmore. "We were just going to do the engineering part of it, but I was like, 'oh, yeah it sounds pretty cool.' We showed up and they were like, 'you're going to do it in Minecraft.' We were like, 'that's awesome!'"

After building the fort in Minecraft, the students will advance to architectural program Autocad, and then Autocad 3D. Hotchkiss-Trejo expects the project will be done in about two years. They should be finished with the Minecraft portion by the end of this semester.

The National Park Service, which keeps up the fort, supports the project as a way for the next generation to appreciate history and reconnect with the site.

Instructors add that the students' enthusiasm for STEM is refreshing. "There's going to be mathematics," says Hotchkiss-Trejo. "When they get into Autocad they're going to learn basic engineering and architectural principles, as well as using technology."

Allen says, "Anytime you can pass on something to somebody else and just see them enjoying it and learning and growing and going beyond what you're capable of doing, that's really nice to see."

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