SIOUX CITY | North High School freshman Kyla McPeek dreamed of one day attending a Comic-Con, but never once expected her first one to be right in her high school.
Dressed as popular anime character Sailor Moon, McPeek watched with excitement as fellow North High students participated Friday in the first-ever StarCon – North High’s adaptation of the world-renowned Comic-Con, a comic and entertainment convention held annually in San Diego.
“I’ve always wanted to go to a Comic-Con,” she said, taking a break from the virtual reality and card games that scattered the floor of the North High gymnasium. “I was so excited when I heard the announcement.”
Others weren’t as sure about the high school hosting such an event.
“I was like, 'why?'" sophomore Ciara Hess recalled her reaction to the event.
But after just a few minutes playing with Google Cardboard and looking at some of the other interactive displays, Hess understood why similar events were popular.
“It’s definitely a lot cooler than I thought it would be,” she said.
Junior Tasia Fondren said her expectations and what she experienced were entirely different.
“I never really knew what it was. I thought it was just for video games,” she said. “But now I see it’s way more than that, and I’ve gotten to interact with kids I never had before.”
Fondren, Hess and their friend, freshman Emily Bruneau, were enthralled by Google Cardboard. The gadget that turns a smart phone into a virtual reality scene allowed the girls to venture through a haunted house.
Moving dolls and ghoulish figures transported Bruneau to a place that was anything but the familiar confines of the North High gym.
“It’s like you’re in a dream,” she said.
The two-day event wasn’t all about experiencing new hobbies. Students and teachers took StarCon as an opportunity to display projects with a pop-culture, fine arts and STEM emphasis.
Jill Risdal, family and consumer science teacher, had her fashion students create outfits strictly out of recycled material. Dresses fashioned out of playing cards, VCR tape and water bottles stood among the video games and book displays.
Risdal said the project brought unbridled enthusiasm out of students, but still required them to pay attention to pop culture trends and environmental protection.
“Each one is unique,” she said. “They use their talents, what interests them and their personality to create something reflective of that in their design.”
Sophomore Albert Pham, a member of the school’s robotics club, helped introduce a new robot specifically for StarCon. The smaller variation of the group’s competition robot picked up ping pong balls and placed them in cups with the help of a remote control.
Pham said any student at StarCon was welcome to pick up the controller and try it out. With a little luck, Pham said, maybe his passion could influence a fellow student to get involved with the robotics club.
“It’s fun because we get to spread our knowledge and we always like showing off what we do,” he said. “Some say they don’t know about robotics because they’ve never taken engineering, but anyone can do it.”
Teacher-librarian Chris Tomlinson said that mix of hobbies and education was a goal of the event. She said staff and students wanted to bring an event to school that would allow the exploration of existing and new hobbies.
“This is their life outside of school,” she said, adding that some of the StarCon attractions allowed students to apply education to fun. “Kids use so much creativity and problem solving skills outside of class, when we bring those skills into class … it opens up a new world for them.”
Whether students had an interest in comics or had no idea what a Comic Con was at first, the message of StarCon was clear.
“Come down and get your geek on,” McPeek said.