Sterling Heights

Virtual reality course launches in Sterling Heights

Michael Melling is officially hooked. Melling was one of the first twenty students to complete a “Steambox” program, a pilot virtual reality class, at the Velocity Hub in Sterling Heights late last year, and said he's excited about where the course could go.

Melling, who works as a controls engineer, said he took the one-day pilot course to become more involved in augmented and virtual reality work.

“It was a lot of fun,” Melling said. “I have my own ideas for products too and I want to develop those.”

The program, designed as a low-cost starter class, came out of creator Steve Couchman's work in 3D media and is aimed at developing skill sets around game design, 3D work, coding and graphic design. 

Stephen Couchman is expanding his virtual reality company in Sterling Heights.

“We’re even working with the army shortly to create a curriculum for Artificial Intelligence machine learning,” said Couchman. 

Larry Herriman, assistant director of the Macomb-Oakland University SmartZone Business Incubator, sees the course as an asset to the Sterling Heights innovation hub on 18 Mile Road. 

“These are very cutting-edge tools,” Herriman said. 

With student ages ranging from 13 to 60, Couchman also sees the course as an alternative, or accompaniment, to what students might find at universities, schools and workplaces.

“It involves ‘stackable' skills,” Couchman said. “It’s all tangible things that bring value to a company.”

“Ideally, this is aimed at that high school student who doesn’t know what they want to do,” he said.

“You bring them in with the games and they see training for cyber security, training for Steambox in 3D, artificial intelligence, robotics and all of a sudden there’s a menu to pick from for what adventure they want to try.”

Couchman hopes the next year for Steambox will involve setting up free online learning tools, online classes and possible collaboration with a corporate partners and Macomb County virtual reality center. He sees a lot of potential.

“We want to expand this out,” he said. “This is phase one.”

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Kate Roff is an award-winning freelance writer and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. She is the managing editor of Metromode and Model D. Contact her at