Video games used to teach Prince George’s County youngsters science, math -- Gazette.Net


Justin Williams, 10, scrolled through the menus in his computer program quickly, showcasing a familiarity with the video game software he hoped will attract a teammate for December’s video game jam contest.

“I want to be a game designer when I grow up,” said Justin of Mitchellville.

Justin was one of about 20 participants in a video game design workshop on Saturday intended to prepare the interested children for the Dec. 7 Video Game Jam. The workshop taught them how to use Kodu, a video game design software, with a tutorial created by Illinois-based DeVry University.

The workshop was held by the Patriot Technology Center at the Largo-Kettering Library in Largo. The center is holding its fifth Video Game Jam, a contest where teams spend two hours creating a game that will be judged by video game professionals, said Thurman Jones, president of the Patriots Technology Training Center. The winning team will receive a $100 gift card and second and third place will get $50 and $25 cards, respectively.

Two workshops have been held in Prince George’s County with another two scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Oxon Hill Library, 6200 Oxon Hill Road, and Nov. 23 at the South Bowie Library, 15301 Hall Road in Bowie.

Designing games requires knowing math, engineering, design and a myriad of other skills so it prepares the children for a technology-demanding world, Jones said.

“It gets them more into the business of games,” Jones said. “We want to get students involved with STEM education so we can attract more high-tech firms to the county.”

The workshop consisted of a short tutorial that introduced participants in the Kodu software. After the tutorial, Jones brought the students together to introduce themselves and start talking with each other to form teams. Justin said he had a couple of prospects for teammates and he plans to compete in the Video Game Jam on Dec. 7 at Prince George’s County Community College in Largo.

Justin’s mother, Tamara Williams, said she supported her son’s interest in learning how to design games. He plays them often, so this is a chance for him to make friends and get an interest in designing games that will help him in the future, Tamara Williams said.

“If he is going to spend this much time playing the games, he might as well learn how to build them,” Tamara Williams said. “It makes [the family] feel better that he is having a learning experience and enjoying the games.”

Michael Coker, 14, of Upper Marlboro, was at the workshop hoping to find some teammates for the competition.

He said the Kodu software was fun to use and is a good way to expose younger people to complicated works such as engineering and video game design. Those careers can be intimidating, but the Kodu software is a good place to start, Michael said.

“Don’t be intimidated,” Michael said. “Try it out before you say no. Don’t give up on your dreams.”