Last summer, I had the pleasure of interning with the team behind the National STEM Video Game Challenge. While working with the Cooney Center, I helped create and publish online content to spread the word about the STEM Challenge, and I also had the opportunity to work with students in game design workshops. The technology available to kids today extends far beyond what was available ten years ago when I was in middle school. It was incredible to watch these middle and high school students work so intuitively with complex platforms—platforms that can serve as a gateway into STEM disciplines.
The STEM Challenge encourages youth to explore STEM disciplines such as coding and computer science by making those subjects accessible and engaging. Computer science has limitless applications, and if a student begins their journey into programming through something fun (like designing a video game) then other applications may feel more approachable.
Inspired by my time at the Cooney Center, I have taken classes in both computer science and game design at school this year. I am currently taking a game design class, and my team is creating a video game for mobile devices. Our team is multi-disciplinary—I am the design lead and make all the art and animation for the game. There are also four coders on our team, as well as a UX designer. Our game is called Slam-A-Lot, and it’s a medieval-themed platformer where you battle an opponent across a number of levels.
When creating our game, we faced a number of challenges from both a design and computer science perspective. Our game took six college seniors and a semester of intensive work to complete—giving me a renewed appreciation for the quality of games submitted by STEM Challenge participants. STEM Challenge games are remarkably polished, with creativity and effort evident behind each game.
In the fall I’ll return to Cornell to finish my master’s in Information Science and UX Design. I hope to expand on the game design principles I’ve learned so far, and to explore robot design and human-computer interaction. I definitely have the STEM Challenge to thank for sparking my interest in Information Science. After playing with some of the platforms in the STEM Challenge game design workshops, I went home after work and attempted to teach myself computer science fundamentals on Codecademy. There are many online resources available to those interested in computer science and game design, and I definitely recommend that you peruse them—even if you’re “too old” to qualify for the STEM Challenge. It’s never too late to learn!
Sloane Grinspoon was an intern at the Cooney Center last summer, working with the National STEM Video Game Challenge team. She graduated from Cornell University with a BA in Psychology, and is on track to finish an MA in Information Science and UX Design.