Kids Construct High-Tech Haunted Fairground

Oct 13, 2017

Halloween is still weeks away, but some middle and high school kids from Charlottesville are ready.  They spent their summer designing a haunted fairground.  

16-year-old Trevoris helped plan a high-tech haunted fairground opening at UVA on October 27.
Credit C4K

With music composed by 14-year-old Dante Walker, the haunted fairground promises a whole new take on amusement parks.  Engineering Professor Reid Bailey worked with a non-profit called Computers4Kids or “C4K”to help students design the entrance.

“Kids are so used to height checks at fairgrounds, because they don’t get to ride rides if they’re not tall enough,” Bailey explains. “At this fairground there’s going to be a height check, and if you’re too tall, a saw is going to come out and pretend to cut your head off.” 

Dante Walker composed some spine tingling music for this year's haunted house at UVA's Brown College.

C4K’s Matt Burke says they did research on what causes people to jump, and what super-natural experiences might make your skin crawl.

“They wanted to create the actual experience of a poltergeist passing through you, so they’ve been working with holograms and illusion technology,” he says.

13-year-old Jashua also joined in the high-tech effort to create a haunted fairground.
Credit C4K

The fairground will be part of a larger event called Hauntings on the Hill – an annual fundraiser hosted by Brown College at UVA.  C4K’s Lizzie Hoeppner says students met with their university counterparts beforehand – treating them as clients.

“One of our important things to do at C4K is to have our youth be ready for the workforce and to have real life experiences that prepare them to succeed in college and career,” she says.

Burke says the students learned, right away, that computer consultants must listen to clients.  The kids asked, for example, just how scary this haunted place should be.  

“Their barometer was somewhere in between going ahhh and vomiting,” he jokes. “I think the initial intent for most of the members was that we were going to be making a vomit-worthy haunted house, but in really talking to their client and understanding that we wanted something in between, it got toned down.”

Using computers to design the fairground and craft special effects convinced 14-year-old Michael Sadikoglu and 16-year-old Brittny Washington that a career involving technology was right for them.

“I wanted to major in computer science, because I like messing with coding and adrenals and stuff.  I think it’s really cool,” says Washington.

“It could possibly put me toward technical engineering and computers,” Sadikoglu adds.

And for Dante Walker, who sings, plays piano and violin, the experience was confirmation that music matters.

“If you watch a scary movie, you’re going to need some scary music to have people on the edge of their seats.”

Hauntings on the Hill, at UVA’s Brown College, will be open for some frightful business on October 27 and 28th at 7 p.m..