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HCC interns at Washington County Tech High prove they've got game

Students help create computer game for youths

August 15, 2011
  • From left, Hagerstown Community College students Grady Shingler, Michael Goodrich, Steve Ingraham and Brandon Bishop.
Submitted photo

HAGERSTOWN — Four students in the Simulation and Digital Entertainment program at Hagerstown Community College worked with Washington County Public Schools staff and students in the Computer Game Development and Animation Program at Washington County Technical High School to create, design and develop an educational computer game for elementary school students in grades one through five.

The project was part of the $339,602 USDA Culinary Enhancement of Food grant, which was awarded to the Maryland State Department of Education in 2009. The grant is intended to facilitate the creation of culinary teams in Maryland school systems, which consist of food-service departments, culinary arts programs, teachers and high school students. The goal of the grant is to diminish childhood obesity and provide healthy nutritional information to children, as well as improve the nutritional quality of school lunches.

“This grant is all about students creating healthy recipes for the types of foods they would like to purchase from their school cafeteria, with the goal of reducing childhood obesity through healthy dining and nutrition education,” said Jeffrey Proulx, WCPS supervisor of food and nutrition science and manager of the CHEF grant.

 HCC students Steve Ingraham of Fairplay; Brandon Bishop of Middletown, Md.; Michael Goodrich of Myersville, Md.; and Grady Shingler of Hagerstown became involved with the grant as part of an internship through the college. The HCC student team was charged with the task of creating a computer game that would teach elementary school students about the USDA food pyramid. The student team began its work in January and spent the next two months creating the concept, artwork and programming for “Project Pyramid,” an interactive, one-player computer game. The team received input from Washington County Board of Education supervisors and community professionals throughout the development process to ensure the game would meet grant standards.

According to Ingraham, who served as project leader, the team’s main goal was to provide a new spin on the food pyramid while still allowing children to have fun playing the game. To achieve this, the team built an adventure game in which players must navigate through five unique worlds, each of which represents one of the five basic food groups. Each world is ruled by an evil “sweet treat master,” who must be defeated in order to save the food group citizens of that world. By answering questions and building their knowledge of each food group, players are able to progress through all five worlds until they’ve won the game.

“Steve, Brandon, Grady and Michael are very productive in their SDE courses,” said David Maruszewski, HCC instructor of simulation and digital entertainment. “I was glad to see them employ those skills in the internship project. Internships allow students to go beyond the classroom and apply theory to practice, as well as showcase their individual talents. In this case, Michael could explore his artistic strengths, Grady his programming skills, Brandon his natural producing intuitions and Steve his design abilities.”

The student team was also assisted by high school students in the CGDA program at Tech High. Juniors in the CGDA program took character sketches created by Goodrich and created the game characters in Adobe Photoshop. They also assisted the team with many of the game animations.

“The CGDA program receives requests for internships from many different colleges because students in the program produce commercial-quality products,” said Martin Nikirk, computer game development and animation teacher, who served as game project manager on “Project Pyramid” and other USDA games. “We were happy to work with HCC on this project. The HCC interns were professional and demonstrated incredible leadership, creativity and initiative in meeting the requirements for the USDA grant.”

The HCC student team presented a one-level PC demo of the game to the board of education and state department of education on May 13. The game is expected to debut in local elementary schools in the fall.

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