CSC News

July 31, 2012

Middle School Girls Learn About Gaming in Summer Camp

A group of 24 middle school girls attended a new Middle School Girls Computer Science Camp the week of July 16 as part of the College of Engineering’s Summer Programs.  The camp focused on engineering design challenges including learning about and designing computer games, and working with other computer applications.  The camp was coordinated by Dr. R. Michael Young, professor of computer science and director of the Digital Games Research Center at NC State, and PhD student Lucy Shores was the camp's team leader.
The camp provided the girls with an introduction to computer science through a variety of guest speakers, field trips, and hands-on projects activities including:
  • Dr. Young’s Gaming presentation:  Dr. Young spoke to the girls about the components of games and especially rules that make up games.  Following his presentation, he set up an xbox Kinect and a Nintendo Wii and the girls took turns playing games and analyzing them in terms of what Dr. Young talked about.
  • Microsoft Kodu game project:  the girls planned, developed, and tested their own games and created an informative poster over the course of the week.  At the end of each day, the teams presented their daily progress and their development plans for the next day.  On Thursday, the teams played each other’s games and provided a constructive critique.
  • Binary Necklace activity:  Binary code was introduced to the girls and each girl transformed their birthday into binary.  Then, each girl picked two bead colors (one to represent 0 and one to represent 1) and made necklaces that represented their birthdays in binary code.
  • Outside “Programming” activity:  To emphasize the fact that computers do what you tell them to do, not necessarily what you want them to do when programming, girls were paired up and assigned the role of either a “programmer” or a “computer”.  The girl acting as the computer was blind-folded and the girl acting as the programmer had to guide her partner through an obstacle course using only words.
  • Field Trip to Spark Plug Games:  NC State computer science alumnus and president of Spark Plug Games John O’Neill welcomed the campers and counselors to the offices of Spark Plug Games, the gaming company that O’Neill started in 2008.  O’Neill and several of his staff talked about making games as a profession and showed them examples of games in the development process.
  • Presentation by Astronaut Dr. Nancy Jane Currie (Colonel, USA, Ret.), principal engineer, NASA Engineering and Safety Center, Johnson Space Center:  Dr. Currie spoke about her experiences during her four shuttle flights and time on the International Space Station (ISS).  Her main responsibilities were to operate the Robotic Arm that was used to help assemble pieces onto the ISS.  Through her slide presentation, the girls could see what happens during a shuttle launch and the effects of microgravity during her time in lower earth orbit in the shuttle and ISS.
The week culminated with a poster session and reception sponsored by the Computer Science ePartners Program where the girls could present their games to family, friends, faculty and staff. 
“This is one of the first times we’ve had a camp like this designed specifically for middle school girls," said Dr. Young.  "We focused on girls at this level because studies have shown that it’s at this stage that students, especially girls, begin to lose interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  We wanted to show the girls that computer science and engineering can be fun, and we encouraged them to pursue STEM in their higher grades.” 
Photos of the camp can be found here.
For more information on the College of Engineering’s Summer Programs, click here.


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