Getting Their Game On
Many parents have chided their offspring for spending too much time playing video games and not enough engaging in educational pursuits. Well, hard-core gamers at TCNJ can legitimately respond by explaining that the two endeavors need not be mutually exclusive.
Professor Chris Ault has blended elements of the Interactive Multimedia (IMM) Program and the Department of Computer Science to develop courses that teach students how to create original video games. The courses are the product of input from faculty members in several departments, including IMM, music, art, communication studies, computer science, English, and political science. Those enrolled have ranged from visual artists to musicians to writers to programmers.
The first of TCNJ’s video game courses is offered during the fall semester and examines the development of concepts. Is the game challenging? Is it enjoyable? Is the subject matter compelling? In addition to guest lecturers speaking on a range of topics from storytelling to artificial intelligence, students debate their concerns about ethical and social issues, such as race, gender, violence, and personal privacy, as they relate to games. By semester’s end, the students complete their idea for a game and develop original script and artwork to support their game concept. A class the following spring entails implementing the concepts created during the fall semester and actually producing the video game.
“In the spring, we actually roll up our sleeves and make the thing,” Ault noted. “With faculty and students from a variety of departments and programs, the games courses have become a model for cross-disciplinary collaboration, one our own campus as well as institutions across the country.”
Where Science Fiction Becomes Reality
Mechatronics, taught by Jennifer Wang, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, requires students to create a robotic appliance that combines aspects of mechanical, software, and electrical engineering into a single machine that can perform tasks.
Mechatronics is an introduction to the analysis and design of mechatronic systems, including actuators, sensors, microcomputers, conditional and interfacing electronics, and mechanisms. It’s a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary engineering course that commands knowledge of mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering (as well as computer science).
“Due to the high demand of mechatronic and robotic specialists in the engineering industry, the course was designed to keep pace with the modern engineering world,” Wang explained.
In this particular course, the main assignment is for students to build a robot that is able to create an original work of art as its specific programmed function. Students are evaluated and graded on their Artbot’s design concept, physical appearance, quality of construction, artistic output, and physical properties. Samples of the Artbot’s finished works can be viewed at www.tcnj.edu/~jwang/mechatronics.htm.
The World is Your Classroom
Student teaching is both an exciting and challenging aspect of earning a degree in education. Imagine experiencing seven weeks of that student teaching requirement in Ireland, The Netherlands, or Thailand.
The Global Student Teaching Program offers education majors the opportunity to fulfill a portion of their obligations at an international school. Site locations in the past have included Bolivia, Canada, Croatia, Italy, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, South Africa, and Thailand. Students are evaluated by a supervisor to assess their progress in the classroom, before returning to the states to complete the student teaching requirement at a local school that is part of TCNJ’s Professional Development School Network.
The primary objective of The Global Student Teaching Program is to create connections between the student teachers’ global and local teaching experiences. Strategies for achieving that goal include each student teacher preparing a lesson highlighting an aspect of American culture and presenting it in a classroom overseas. The student teachers must perform the same task in addressing a cultural or life lesson from their global setting that is to be presented to their local students. Student teachers must also create a pictorial history of their experience, which captures interaction with students and the community as well as its culture.
The program is available to all undergraduate students in the School of Education and to graduate MAT students.