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April 29, 2010
CGIM Students Develop Educational Gaming Opportunities

It's not all fun and games for students in the University of Dubuque's Computer Graphics and Interactive Media Department... or is it? Students enrolled in Serious Game Development are working to develop educational games that will aid children with disabilities.

"There are many opportunities for video games beyond entertainment," said Brad Kaldahl, professor of computer graphics and interactive media. "Children are learning math and other subjects using video games that teach while they entertain."

Over the past year, there has been a growing interest in exploring the use of games in education. Microsoft is investing in science and math games for junior high students. The Ganz Foundation (Sesame Street) is encouraging the exploration of children's educational games on portable devices such as the iPhone and handheld game consoles. The White House and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsak, now the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, have begun soliciting game companies to develop edu-games that help teach children about exercise and diet. This diverse interest demonstrates that the University's CGIM department is on the right path.

Last semester, seven UD students participated in a serious games course to develop educational game and simulation content for children with disabilities. Jordan Allen's (C'09, Dubuque, IA) work is being published in an educational game for the Marblesoft Simtech Corporation. Another student, Andrew Humason (senior, Chanhassen, MN), developed a software simulation game to help users learn how to use head tracking software. The demo version of this software has been used in demonstrations by the Lazee Tek company at a several conferences around the U.S. Additionally, Alan Garfield, chair of the CGIM department, was asked by Dubuque's Mississippi River Museum to have students develop an educational game that illustrates the history of mining in Dubuque. These are all significant achievements for any undergraduate game program - but especially for one that is just breaking into the educational gaming field.

"Giving our students the experience of developing a game and having it published - all the while enabling them rich opportunities to research, explore, and learn in new fields - these are exciting goals," states Kaldahl.