ST. GEORGE — Student engineers who built a virtual version of the New York Wheel on the online game Minecraft will be among the first to ride the real thing when it opens next year.
The 10 students built the New York Wheel on the popular computer game during a summer STEM program. Wheel CEO Rich Marin gave the digital engineers free VIP tickets to ride the attraction on the first week it opens to highlight their work.
“When we came over we saw that there were 10 who had, of their own volition, included the wheel as part of their vision of sort of the ideal community. We thought that was noteworthy,” said Marin.
“To give that sort of pride to Staten Island children where they can say, ‘Yeah we got the Ferry, we got the wheel, we got some neat stuff here on Staten Island,' that meant a lot to us because to us building a wheel is about building an icon and building pride.”
The Department of Education “STEM Summer in the City 2016” program involved second to 10th graders around the city doing weekly challenges like coding and game design, field trips and Minecraft.
The students who decided to build the wheel for the program were all in the 7th to 11th grade Staten Island program.
Fatin Iftekhar, 14, of West Brighton, said it took him hours, and a lot of math, to create the wheel in the game, but it was worth it to be one of the first to try out the ride.
“It's amazing,” said Iftekhar, who attends Brooklyn Technical High School and only found out he was getting a ticket a few days ago. “I want to show off at home too. I got a ticket playing a video game.”
Iftekhar built a sculpture park and theme park in the game for his summer project and chose to add the wheel to help bring more recognition to the borough and give his friends a chance to — digitally — ride the attraction.
“It would bring more recognition to Staten Island and the wheel project itself,” he said about his idea to make it in the game.
“Other people would get to see it, hear about it, and it all comes out to something great in the end.”
He said the hardest part of the project was trying to create the round wheel itself because Minecraft only uses square blocks. Marin said a lot of the problems the student designers worked through were the same ones his team dealt with.
“It's causing them to think through issues that we have to think through in building this huge wheel,” said Marin.
The 620-foot observational wheel — expected to be one of the tallest in the world — is expected to open next year.
Aside from the tickets given to children in the STEM program, all students in the city will get a free ride on the wheel during its first year in operation, Marin said.