Gaming Comes to Life for Middle School Students Thanks to Becker College

Published on Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

It was fun and gamesduring the last week of school for Tahanto Regional Middle School in Boylston, Mass, as Becker College Game Design students Heriberto Calderon (Program Lead), Carlos Cerros (Programming/Coding), and Kaitlyn Krystyniak (Game Art) brought gaming to life for almost 90 students. This crash course was not about playing games, but about developing them, and the Tahanto students learned about all that goes into creating digital games.

Using a curriculum designed by Calderon, the 8th graders were split up into six teams that were each responsible for designing and creating a functional game over the course of three days. In their teams, students took the roles of programmers, artists, designers, and writers. Working in a joint effort environment is a hallmark of the Becker Game Design curriculum and this approach proved valuable to the middle school students. Remarking on the Becker-run program, one Tahanto teacher said that the event created an “appreciation for the importance of team collaboration, critical thinking, and perseverance; all skills so vital in today’s work force.”

A student who was apprehensive about the technology behind digital games had a newfound appreciation for the game design world after working with peers and implementing the skills she learned. After attending the three-day gaming initiative, some students decided to attend Becker’s Summer Game Studio program where they will enhance the skills they picked up at the end of the school year.

The finished products were side-scrolling games that incorporated the use of Photoshop, Unity, and other programming software. The games ranged from navigating a student through detention to a race between a turtle and a slug. When asked about his experience with teaching the students, Calderon said that “the most rewarding part was seeing all the kids excited to showcase their games, and their storyboards. They each had something on the screen that they were proud of, and putting a smile on their face made my year.”

As schools across the country look to involve students with STEM activities, game design and programming are making an impact. Dean of the School of Design and Technology at Becker, Alan Ritacco, believes that “…having our students volunteer time and work with the community to teach STEM skills and introduce students to new technologies is a way to equip the next generation of students to a high-tech future while giving our current students valuable teaching experience.”

Becker and the visiting team were praised by teachers, parents, and students alike. Students made a “Thank You Becker College!” sign to show their gratitude.

Read more about Becker’s game design outreach in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.