The XR Festival - a Report

Tom Kuster (New Ulm, Minnesota USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Dr. Tom Kuster is a retired Professor of Communication, Executive Director of the Christ in Media Institute at Bethany Lutheran College, and co-host of this Gospel Outreach With Media online conference.


In April of 2022, after a two-year postponement due to disease, the long-planned 'XR Festival" finally came to pass. Following is a report about this exciting event.

The XR Festival: a Report

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) commanded attention at the "XR (Extended Reality) Festival" hosted at Bethany Lutheran College by the Christ in Media Institute on April 1-2. 2022.

Lutheran high schools had been invited to participate in the "XR Project" in which student teams would study applications of XR for education and Gospel outreach, then attend the Festival to report their findings. Four schools participated (see Showcase schedule below) with their combined 17 students among 62 registered attendees. The students came through with ideas ranging from 360-degree church service videos, through Christian VR games, to adding Christian music to the Beat Sabre challenge.

Local Pastor Rob Guenther and London Missionary Mike Hartman described their VR ventures, and discussions extended into VR applications in medical and clinical settings.

Christine Lion-Bailey from Ready Learner One based in New Jersey, expert in K-through-college educational technology, keynoted the Festival, also speaking to special sessions for Bethany Education majors (more than 50 attended) and homeschooling families (two attended).

Dr. Brian Klebig

Josh Knutson represented our corporate partner, ByteSpeed, providing VR demonstrations and added an introduction to esports.

Bethany's own Dr. Brian Klebig opened the Festival effectively describing "The Xtent of XR," and student volunteers from Bethany's S.T.O.R.M. group (Serving Through Outreach, Relief, and Missions) pitched in to welcome visitors at registration and to prepare and serve a hot breakfast.

Just as CMI's 2012 "Media Outreach in World Missions" Conference helped launch wide-ranging Gospel outreach ventures using cellphones, with the Holy Spirit's blessing the XR Festival can inspire new ways of using extended reality technology to spread the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

XR Festival Agenda

Friday April 1

Christine Lion-Bailey speaks to Ed Majors

      • 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Special session for Education majors
      • 6:30 - 7:00 Registration
      • 7:00 - 9:00 "Experience XR" by Nerds United
      • 7:00 - 8:00 Special session for homeschool families

Saturday April 2

      • 8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration open
      • 8:15 a.m. Welcome breakfast
      • 9:00 Brian Klebig: The Xtent of XR
      • 10:00 Showcase: see schedule below
        • St Croix Academy
        • Luther High School
        • Northland Lutheran High School
        • Fox Valley Lutheran High School
        • Pastor Rob Guenther
        • Missionary Mike Hartman
        • Festival Host Tom Kuster
      • 11:40 Breakout sessions
      • 12:15 p.m. Lunch in Bethany's Dining Room
      • 1:00 Christine Lion-Bailey: Keynote
      • 2:00 - 2:35 Breakout sessions repeated
      • 2:35 - 3:00 Relax and network
      • 3:00 Christine and Josh Knutson: esports
      • 4:00 "Next Steps" assembly and door prizes
      • 5:00 Supper in Bethany's Dining Room

Breakouts: each repeated twice

      • Hear about and experience services to schools available from ByteSpeed, our Festival partner, with Josh Knutson.

      • Discuss the book Reality Bytes with its author Christine Lion-Bailey.

      • Learn about Bethany Lutheran College's nationally competitive esports varsity program, with Coach Lucas Fricke.

      • Visit the nerve-center of Bethany Lutheran College's Division I Hockey and other events telecasts, with participating students.

      • Enjoy some products of Bethany Lutheran College's Media Arts Major, with Ben Lundsten.

Showcase Schedule

Saturday 10:00 to 11:40 a.m.

    • 10:00 St. Croix Academy, West St. Paul, MN
      • "First Thoughts"
          Lalia Danelon
          Advisor: Leanne Stob

    • 10:10 Luther High School, Onalaska, MN
        Three-part Project
        1) The 360 camera and its applications
        2) The possibilities for Oculus in the classroom
        3) When Christian music and VR gaming meet
          Presented by Elle Bolstad, Haukin Protsman, Justin Walleck
          Also contributing: Ayden Hackbarth, Bryden Hundt, Michael Lazzaretti, Matt Wieser
          Advisors: Greg Schibbelhut and Adam Schwartz

    • 10:20 Northland Lutheran High School, Kronenwetter, WI
        Owl Eyes - Mikayla Christenson, Arabella Baumann, Nicole Luedtke
        Biblavita - Kristi Krechlau, Samantha Kleinschmidt, Aubrie Hayek, Riley Fairbanks, Kadance Fox, Lexie Screnock
        Bible Trivia - Mitchell Kracht, Corbin Zortman, Jack Hahn, Ethan Rasmussen, Henry Woltman
          Advisors: Rick Grundman and Julia Schibbelhut

Rob Guenther

    • 10:50 Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Appleton, WI
        Four Teams - a video by FVLHS Digital Communications Class Students Exploring...
          VR Bible Stories, by Garrett, Meyah, Noahly, Teigan
          VR Christian Community/Chat Rooms, by Damari, Derek, Levi, Sophia, Marissa
          VR Church Services, by Gavin, Matthew, Noah B, Noah Z
          VR Games and Experiences, by Ian, Zach, Brooke, Mason, Justin
            Advisor: Nathan Nolte

    • 11:00 Student Learning in Virtual Settings - Pastor Rob Guenther, New Ulm

      Dr. Mike Hartman

    • 11:10 Worship in Virtual Settings - Missionary Mike Hartman, London

    • 11:20 Some Clinical Applications - Tom Kuster, CMI

Thanks to the following:

All our speakers, presenters and breakout leaders

STORM (Serving Through Outreach, Relief, and Missions)
Audrey Faith Amiling, Sonya Bonnett, Makenzie Kinney, Lucy Klatt, Tristen Lindell, Abby Sorensen, and especially Cianna Hoppe

Nerds Unite, led by Peter Estrem

Also... Glenda Bossow, Reese Boucher, Chris Kind, Brian Klebig, Jon Kovaciny, Jake Krier, Judy Kuster, Matt & Ruth Kuster, Jeff Lemke, Marie MacPherson, Beka & Steve Matthes, Amanda Moldstad, Tricia Nelson, Carrie Pfeifer, Lance Schwartz, John Sehloff, Amanda Stahl, James Strom, Paul Wold, and the person I forgot (sorry).

For contributing funds to keep registration fees low:

Thrivent Financial
Abiding Shepherd Lutheran Church
ELS Women's Missionary Society
The Hansen Family
Dave Raak
Tom & Judy Kuster


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