Universities and students are celebrating the graduating class of 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic with robots, ‘Minecraft,’ and ‘Animal Crossing’

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Graduates at BBT in Tokyo had a unique virtual ceremony involving mobile robots. BBT
  • US universities began shifting to remote learning in light of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, leaving the graduating class of 2020 without a traditional ceremony.
  • Colleges and universities across the globe are getting creative with ways to come together and celebrate graduates virtually.
  • Here’s how schools are celebrating the graduating class of 2020 amid the coronavirus crisis with robots at Business Breakthrough University, virtual replicas of the University of Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts Institue of Technology in “Minecraft,” and more.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.


The class of 2020 is having a non-tradiational graduation experience amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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A graduation ceremony at Columbia University before the coronavirus pandemic. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


While practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, college communities have come up with creative ways to celebrate their commencement virtually.

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University of Massachusetts Medical School graduate Jacqueline Chipkin participates in a FaceTime video chat on March 31, 2020. Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider


Mobile robots: Business Breakthrough University (BBT) in Tokyo hosted a virtual graduation ceremony for students using mobile robots on March 28.

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BBT University graduation. BBT

Source: Business Insider


Designed by OhmniLabs, “Newme” robots have tablets attached to them where each student is in attendance via a Zoom call.

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‘Newme’ robots at the BBT University graduation. BBT

Source: Business Insider


Four students and a few administrators showed up to the ceremony in-person to help operate the virtual attendants.

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BBT University graduation. BBT

Source: Business Insider


This way, the BBT class of 2020 was able to experience walking across the graduation stage to receive their diploma without having to bring everyone together in-person.

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‘Newme’ robots at the BBT University graduation. BBT

Source: Business Insider


Video conference: In New York, NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine had an early graduation ceremony for students who volunteered to begin working on the frontline against the coronavirus on April 3.

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A screenshot of NYU early graduates. Courtesy of NYU

Source: NYU Langone Health


The ceremony was a live teleconference, including encouraging words from faculty and mentors as well as a slide for each graduate with their name and photo.

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Jeff Manko, MD, spoke during the ceremony. Courtesy of NYU

Source: NYU Langone Health


The 52 graduates are joining NYU Langone’s internal medicine and emergency medicine departments as interns.

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A screenshot of NYU early graduates. Courtesy of NYU

Source: NYU Langone Health


Building a virtual campus: Students at the University of Pennsylvania recreated their campus in “Minecraft,” a video game where you can build worlds.

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UPenn campus in ‘Minecraft.’ Damian Owerko

Source: Business Insider


Students started building in March to host virtual versions of graduation traditions typically celebrated on campus.

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UPenn campus in ‘Minecraft.’ Damian Owerko

Source: Business Insider


News of an elementary school graduation on “Minecraft” inspired junior Andrew Guo to reach out to other students about building a virtual version of their campus.

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UPenn campus in ‘Minecraft.’ Built by Andrew Roberts, Screenshot by Damian Owerko

Source: Business Insider


Guo told Business Insider that around 30 people have worked on building the campus.

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UPenn campus in ‘Minecraft.’ Damian Owerko

Source: Business Insider


Guo told said that the group of students involved with the virtual campus is reaching out to the university to discuss using their project for an unofficial virtual graduation event.

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UPenn campus in ‘Minecraft.’ Damian Owerko

Source: Business Insider


Over in Massachusetts, hundreds of MIT students recreated their campus in “Minecraft” as well.

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MIT campus in ‘Minecraft.’ William Moses

Source: Business Insider


Graduate student and “Minecraft” server moderator William Moses told Business Insider that 883 unique users have used the server and 220 of them have requested permission to build.

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MIT campus in ‘Minecraft.’ William Moses

With hundreds of students working towards the completion of the campus, builders are using a google sheet to track who will make each building.

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MIT campus in ‘Minecraft.’ William Moses

Source: Business Insider


Moses told Business Insider that video footage of their virtual campus may be featured in the university’s official online commencement ceremony, which will be held on May 29.

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MIT campus in ‘Minecraft.’ William Moses

Source: MIT


A virtual surprise party: At the University of Southern California, Nimmi Kumar graduated with a mater’s degree in social work, and her friends threw her virtual graduation in a video game where you claim an island and make it your own called “Animal Crossing.”

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Nimmi Kumar graduated from the University of Southern California. Courtesy of Nimmi Kumar

Kumar told Business Insider that she finished her coursework without a sense of completion. “I just logged off of zoom and went back to my couch,” she said.

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Kumar’s graduation ceremony in ‘Animal Crossing.’ Courtesy of Nimmi Kumar

So her friends threw her a surprise graduation ceremony on an “Animal Crossing” island to cheer her up.

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Nimmi Kumar graduated from the University of Southern California. Courtesy of Nimmi Kumar

“They chose the perfect time to have it since I was visiting my parents,” Kumar told Business Insider. “I was genuinely surprised and everyone was crying.”

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Kumar’s graduation ceremony in ‘Animal Crossing.’ Courtesy of Nimmi Kumar

The ceremony was put together by Kumar’s friends that she met in a Facebook group. They bonded over “Animal Crossing.”

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Nimmi Kumar graduated from the University of Southern California. Courtesy of Nimmi Kumar

“Although it was through a video game, I’m glad I was able to find some sort of closure to start the journey after graduation,” Kumar told Business Insider.

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Kumar’s graduation ceremony in ‘Animal Crossing.’ Courtesy of Nimmi Kumar