University of Michigan-Flint

University of Michigan-Flint News

New Game Development Track at UM-Flint Builds Collaboration among Departments

  • May 14th, 2010 By: UM-Flint News

The Skinny

Wii, Xbox, Nintendo, and the list goes on and on of video games that fill the hours for many kids and even adults. Now, University of Michigan-Flint students have an opportunity to learn what it takes to develop a video game.

The Computer Science, Engineering and Physics department recently approved a Game Development track within the Computer Science curriculum, and for students it is a chance to learn the basics of a very hot career.

Wii, Xbox, Nintendo, and the list goes on and on of video games that fill the hours for many kids and even adults. Now, University of Michigan-Flint students have an opportunity to learn what it takes to develop a video game.

The Computer Science, Engineering and Physics department recently approved a Game Development track within the Computer Science curriculum, and for students it is a chance to learn the basics of a very hot career.

It all started when Assistant Professor Hiba Wehbe-Alamah, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, CTN-A and Associate professor Marilyn McFarland, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, CTN-A sought the expertise of Associate Professor Michael Farmer, PhD to develop a computer-based Transcultural Nursing Simulation game to help teach undergraduate nursing students how to deliver culturally congruent care to patients of diverse cultural backgrounds.

“The students learn how to understand the cultural and religious needs of the patient, and provide care that fits those needs,” said Wehbe-Alamah. “It is a creative teaching strategy that is fun at the same time.”

Since the initiation of the nursing game project, Associate Professor Jerry Sanders from the Biology department and Dr. Farmer have also assembled a team to develop a game for teaching cell biology using the game framework developed under the nursing game.

“We are teaching students how to build amino acids and proteins and then build cells,” said Associate Professor Jerry Sanders who is the lead for the biology project.

Under the joint direction of Drs. Farmer, Wehbe-Alamah and Sanders, teams of students from the Computer Science Nursing, Biology, and Communication and Visual Arts departments are all working together to develop these educational games. Dr Farmer says, “One exciting aspect of these games is that they are providing a catalyst for these very different departments to work together in a highly interdisciplinary manner which will certainly help facilitate the development of interdisciplinary degree programs between the departments.”

One of the students doing the drawings for the project is Joyce Elhayek, who is an arts major.

“It was a great chance for me to be able to be part of something new that I never worked on before,” said Elhayek. “Being a part of anything new that can change teaching is always a plus and having your name on a project that everyone can see is an advertisement for yourself.”

Miyako Jones is a Computer Science student who volunteered for the project, “The majority of my contributions so far have been documentation, and work on the XML files that the game extracts its content from. Now, I’m the sole person working on the editor.”

Dr. Farmer says since working on the teaching projects, he has come up with more ideas for developing K-12 learning games, and these types of games could become the theme for the program.

“There are things I want to bounce off of the Education Department.” said Dr. Farmer. “There seems to be a lot of interest in what we are doing.”

The nursing project is expected to be completed by December 2010, while the biology program is expected to incorporate a greater variety of game concepts and begin roll-out sometime in 2011. While all interested students are encouraged to contact Drs. Farmer, Wehbe-Alamah, and Sanders, students with digital media arts backgrounds are eagerly sought due to the immense amounts of art that reside within these video games.

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