Video game programming encourages teens to study science, engineering and math disciplines

Columbus, Ohio – December 28, 2007 – Video games – a perennial favorite for holiday gifts – could provide just the encouragement teenagers need to embrace the oft-dreaded high school science, math and technology courses.

“Many kids who enjoy gaming are flocking to video game programming courses nationwide, where they soon learn that good game programmers need to apply disciplines ranging from calculus and physics to English and psychology,” said Pete Carswell, a systems developer and engineer for the Ohio Supercomputer Center. “And they also learn that, if they can master the science and art of programming, a lucrative career awaits them in this growing industry.”

Carswell is among a growing group of educators who fervently believe in the power of gaming in an educational environment. He and Brian Windsor, then a graphics research specialist for the Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design at The Ohio State University, served as video programming instructors during the 2006 and 2007 Summer Institute, a selective two-week camp coordinated by the Ohio Supercomputer Center.

“The students quickly realize that game design and development is not as simple as playing a video game,” Carswell said. “They discover that the work requires the use of other subjects beyond programming.”

For example, the small group of top-notch high school students – a most discerning age for computer game enthusiasts – discovered an obvious flaw in their project. A virtual soccer ball didn’t appear to move realistically if it travels in an absolutely straight line, unaffected by the force of gravity.

Windsor and Carswell pointed out, once again, that the young programmers would have to make use of math and physics to achieve more believable results: adjust the vector by 9.8 meters per second. And, the instructors pointed out, the adjustment wouldn’t take into account more subtle effects, such as wind resistance or rotation of the ball.

The duo have presented their experiences and coursework from the camp at conferences around the country, including the 2007 International Conference on Frontiers in Education: Computer Science and Computer Engineering and the Shawnee Conference 5.0 for Interactive Digital Technology. More importantly, they are creating a freeware pipeline for video game development. Their goal is to make the software available via the Internet to remove financial burdens that may prevent schools from teaching or introducing game design into their curriculum.

 “It’s also important to realize that the industry is a whole lot bigger today than just game design,” said Windsor, who is now with the Defense Intelligence Agency. “There are specialties such as emergency services training and medical visualization and product design. In 15-20 years, you won’t see any product that hasn’t been visualized first.”

Celebrating 20 years of service, the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) is a catalytic partner of Ohio universities and industries that provides a reliable high performance computing and high performance networking infrastructure for a diverse statewide/regional community including education, academic research, industry, and state government. Funded by the Ohio Board of Regents, OSC promotes and stimulates computational research and education in order to act as a key enabler for the state's aspirations in advanced technology, information systems, and advanced industries. For additional information, visit http://www.osc.edu.