By: Kyle Niblett

The dream started 7,697 miles away from the University of Florida campus in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Having just graduated from the UF College of Design, Construction and Planning with a master’s degree in historic preservation in December 2020, Yeneneh Terefe turned that dream into reality and is now heading to another nation’s capital: Washington, D.C.

With degree in hand, Terefe is now spending his winter doing a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex. There, he is applying what he learned at DCP within the walls of the museum’s Conservation Institute, focusing on creating an intuitive and simple virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) application for conservators, educators, and the general public.

“It was always my dream to work with VR and AR apps at the Smithsonian, so this honor means a great deal,” Terefe said. “I have been chasing this opportunity for a very long time.”

A device that allows people to experience a fully immersive virtual world in a first-person perspective by wearing a headset, VR allows users to interact in the world by allowing free-movement and control of their own environment. On the other hand, AR is a mixed reality where the digital world and the real-world collide, allowing users to manipulate the digital image in real-time without a headset. The recent Gator grad credits HPP with his knowledge in both.

“The classes, guidance and encouragement from DCP faculty members gave me all the tools I needed to tackle VR and AR,” said Terefe, who continues to create VR and AR apps for photogrammetry models.

By the end of his fellowship, he will have created accurate models with higher texture and more features to facilitate research for virtual positions.

With his goal of working at one of the most famous museums in the world now realized, Terefe gives the bulk of the credit to his former colleagues back in Gainesville.

“DCP offers diverse courses that are challenging and rewarding,” Terefe finished with. “I encourage current students to take advantage of said courses and to keep challenging themselves.”

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