Sprite – It’s Not Just a Drink

I had the opportunity to attend the STARS Celebration, a conference run by the STARS Alliance, a national program to broaden participation in computing. Yesterday kicked off a four day conference filled with college students and professors. I arrived in time for this morning’s keynote on cyber security with Annie Anton, a professor at North Carolina State University.

I noticed two sessions on the agenda that involved gaming and immediately knew where I needed to go. For those of you who have not visited IT-oLogy yet, we have an awesome gaming development lab called The Portal. This is a space where students and professionals can come to learn, test and play games.

Why would IT-oLogy include The Portal in the 22,000 square feet of renovated space? Gaming is one of the ways that students become interested in IT. What child has not played a game, be it a computer game or a video game? How many children play Angry Birds on their parents’ tablet? Games are all over the place, and children are often the “end user” of this technology. Why not show them how the game is made, and see if they see some magic in it? Through the Portal, we can engage a younger audience in IT, sparking an interest that hopefully will last.

So I’m sitting in “Game Maker Outreach,” a workshop led by Acey Boyce who works at UNC-Charlotte. It turns out to be a hands-on gaming workshop where we pretend to be middle school students learning how to create a game. How cool! I didn’t even have to pretend to not know how to create a game because I’ve never done this before. I quickly hear words I’ve never heard before, including sprite, iteration and looping. Did you know that sprite is not just a drink? Who knew!

This great workshop introduced us to a free software product called “Game Maker” that is available for download at www.yoyogames.com. Acey took us step-by-step to build a game. Acey has developed a 10 week curriculum around Game Maker that he introduces to middle school students on a weekly basis through the Citizens Schools program. It’s great to see that other groups around the Southeast understand the need to promote and engage students in educational gaming to gain their interest in an IT career.

We are currently working to roll out some program modules at IT-oLogy that will take place in The Portal. Stay tuned for more!

(Picture from www.yoyogames.com)

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