Youngsters learn coding and confidence in Game Design Boot Camp
MARIETTA, Ga. (Jun 22, 2017) — Given an Xbox controller, a computer and coding software, a few dozen fourth and fifth graders are learning how to code and design games as part of a new Game Design Boot Camp through Kennesaw State’s College of Computing and Software Engineering.
Offered for the first time this summer, the camp is aimed at teaching young girls the concepts of programming, giving them the fundamental skills to understand this growing technology. The camp is one way that the University is encouraging girls to pursue technology-focused fields.
According to camp organizer, Allan Fowler, assistant professor of software engineering and game development, the boot camp also teaches much more than how to code.
“This is a safe space for girls to learn and develop their confidence,” said Fowler, adding that boys often take over when technology is introduced in a classroom. He hopes to better understand the differences between grade levels of fourth and fifth graders in understanding programming concepts.
While a few of the young girls were involved in robotics at their elementary schools, most had never been introduced to coding until now.
“I like programming because I like how you can do what you want with it,” said a camp participant who is new to game design.
Fowler and two recent graduates of the Computer Game Design and Development program lead the girls each day through various aspects of coding and game design.
During the five-day camp, the girls created “worlds,” such as Mars, where they individually designed the planet’s virtual terrain, choosing materials such as sedimentary, igneous and other types of rocks, and then programmed a moving rover to explore the planet and scan to identify rock samples.
“As a female, I wish I had this camp growing up. I thought that computers were for boys and it would be too hard for me,” said Disney Nguyen, a recent graduate of computer game design and development at KSU. “It’s great to work in this camp and be an example for them to know that we can all do it.”
Through trial and error, the youngsters could test their skills immediately using the software, Kodu Game Lab, a free software product from Microsoft. The girls also may continue their interest in game design by downloading the software at home.
Skylar Romocki, a recent CGDD graduate who now works for Hi-Rez Studios, a video game development company in Atlanta, was surprised at how quickly the girls learned if-then concepts, a key component to coding.
“This is their first step toward programming and game creation, using block development,” said Skylar. “They are learning the logic behind it, and they might actually want to pursue it as a career. For visual learners, this software provides instant gratification for them.”
As part of the camp, the girls also learned to record videos of their games to show off their creative skills, and explored campus on daily afternoon walks.
“For me, there are a few motivations to creating this type of camp,” Fowler said. The camp, offered for two weeks this summer, was funded by internal grants from the Office of the President and the College of Computing and Software Engineering.
“Besides building their confidence with technology and providing a safe space to learn, I also wanted to bring them to campus to see the diversity of our university campus. I want them to have that idea that they can do this.”
– Tiffany Capuano
Photos by Lauren Lopez de Azua
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.