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Smooth sailing

Engineering student navigates uncharted territory with assurance of talent-focused scholarship

Before she had completed her bachelor’s degree in the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Engineering, Megan Charity (B.S.’19/En) had made her mark on the rapidly evolving world of virtual reality. Her invention of a virtual reality skateboard demonstrated how using certain virtual vehicles can reduce a common, unpleasant side effect experienced by those who engage in the technology: “cybersickness” or VR-induced nausea.

A lifelong video game enthusiast, Charity recognized the shortcomings of current VR software, which creates a sensory conflict between what the eyes see and what the motion-sensing organs of the inner ear register. She had an idea that a low-acceleration vehicle, such as a skateboard, would mitigate those effects and allow users to explore digital environments nausea-free. Countless hours of research, programming, testing and recoding later, Charity successfully brought that idea to life.

Computer science has always been Charity’s passion, but she once doubted her ability to realize the ideas in her head. Her younger self, she says, would be proud of everything she has learned to do.

“When I was younger and just learning how to program, I felt like I didn’t know how to make anything in code,” she explains. “I wanted to be able to learn computer science so I could make anything I wanted without being stopped by my own skill level. I’m getting closer to that goal because of all the knowledge that I’m getting from school.”

Attracting and retaining top-performing students is the primary goal of the Wright Engineering Access Scholarship, the VCU College of Engineering’s flagship scholarship program. Charity received one of these awards in 2018. The award, she says, gave her peace of mind that her academic expenses were covered so that she could focus on her future.

This fall, Charity started a Ph.D. program in computer science in the New York University Tandon School of Engineering. One day, she hopes to return to VCU to teach in the Department of Computer Science.

“I just want to keep learning and showing people that you can learn anything you want if you put your mind to it,” she says.