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He's got game, and it pays off

June 01, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Taking images of peeling paint, a dried lake bed and a circuit board and superimposing them over his own photograph, Erik Beebe created a picture that brought to mind a tattered Arnold Schwarzenegger in the last reel of "The Terminator," albeit with a stripe of green hair down the center of his head.

"That was the effect I was going for," Beebe said recently in a computer lab at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

"I use a computer a lot to create things that come to mind," said the Chambersburg Area Senior High School senior. From a folder of prints, he pulled out another, this one showing lightning emanating from his fingertips, inspired by the video games he loves to play.

"I have so many ideas, it would be nice to work for a company that uses them," Beebe said.

He likely will get that chance, the demand for people with technical talents in an increasingly technical world being what it is. The $9,000 scholarship he recently received from DeVry University to study game and simulation programming will help.

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"We look for students who show promise and interest in technical fields," said John Shreiner, an admissions adviser for the Fort Washington, Pa., DeVry campus, one of four in Pennsylvania.

If Beebe successfully completes the 32-month program, he will have earned a bachelor of science degree and will almost certainly be placed in a well-paying job, he said.

The placement rate for graduates is 93 percent, with an average starting salary of $43,000, Shreiner said. At least one scholarship such as the one that Beebe received is available for every one of the approximately 25,000 high schools in the country, he said.

"The guy who created 'Doom' is actually a professor at DeVry in Chicago," Beebe said. "They told me that, and I thought it was awesome."

Like many of the video games that Beebe and millions of others play, "Doom" relies heavily on elements of fantasy and horror. As computer technology has improved, so have the graphics of the games, and Beebe wants to be a part of creating the next generation of games.

"I've been playing video games since I was 2 years old, so it's always been my passion," Beebe said. Creating one, he said, is part of a team effort that involves designers and programmers to come up with characters, scenery and levels of play.

When someone needs to find their way around a software glitch or other technology issue, they rarely call an English literature major. Shreiner said DeVry has 96 campuses in the United States and a presence in 30 other countries to supply companies with the skilled technicians they need.

The campuses are in areas with clusters of technology firms, so DeVry's co-op program provides most students with hands-on training outside of the classroom, Shreiner said.

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