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Oct 08

Seton LaSalle 2017-18 Research Fellows

Congratulations to the students and teachers who have been accepted into the year’s Research Fellows program. This unique program provides support, time, and resources for fellows to initiate and contribute to a year long meaningful project. We encourage you to like and comment on the video.

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Oct 08

Can you 3D print a bump fire stock?

Maybe you can’t 3D print a bump fire stock, but it is possible.  I work with kids, as young as 3rd grade, who are learning to find designs (for example chess pieces) online, edit them in AutoDesk and TinkerCad, and upload them to print in a 3D printer.  The STL file (think of it as the 3D version of a printed out piece of paper you can scan or photocopy in a 2D printer) is available free to download from the web to your computer, then print on a 3D printer.  I would certainly NOT give permission for the 3D printer in the lab to whine away for hours printing out something like this, but there are places students can send that file to that would print it for them.  Several of the kids I work with already have a 3D printer at home (you can buy them for $200 – $1500).

I am challenged as a parent and an educator to deliberately, frequently, and with attention to bias, reevaluate how I address leadership, morality, and a responsibility to build a more beautiful world alongside how to teach 3D CAD Design, 3D printing, and prototyping. I am reminded often of the excerpt of a letter written by a Holocaust survivor to educators, published in Haim Ginott’s “Teacher and Child.”

“I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education.

My request is:

Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.”

I try often and early to teach students to “inspire kids” (our password for many ventures), to not simply lay bricks, but build cathedrals (part of the training to articulate their project missions), to look for the why (Simon Sinek great talk in the leadership curriculum), to “imagineer a more beautiful world” and “quest for a worthy legacy” (part of the call and response for the research fellows).

I deliberately didn’t put the links to the bump fire stock stl files into this post.  If you came here looking for that, please, take time to look at some of the inspiring projects you can get involved with.  Make a gift of yourself for the betterment of others.

Build a 3D printed hand for a child who needs one 

3D print toys for Toys for Tots

Create a shop of  (non-weaponized) speciality items on Shapeways to benefit a charity.

And check out these kids making 3D models for meaningful projects!

If you have a child being trained in firearms, please take the time to teach empathy (all three types – emotional sharing “I feel…  how does this make you feel”; empathetic concern “which of these charities should we give to to help the victims”; and perspective taking “how do you think the kids of this victim are feeling.”)  The stories of 58 dead from Vegas can be found at

Please read it through with them and remember the dead.  Help grow a generation who imagineers a more beautiful world.




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Sep 27

Announcing the 2017-18 Baden Academy Research Fellows



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Sep 03

Virtual Reality Classes to start soon

Virtual reality job openings are up 800%

Fall Programs
at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic
and Seton LaSalle High Schools


Begin to master the latest tools and technologies and put your tech skills to work in the exciting field of VR! We will be learning together from industry experts like Google, Unity, and HTC, and becoming Virtual Reality Developers.

This six week course will focus on foundations. We will start by using the Unity Game Engine to build beautiful Virtual Reality scenes and learn how to make the experience of Virtual Reality more dynamic and responsive by using C# programming in the Unity interface. 

Purchase at:

Virtual Reality
Grades 8-12
6:30-8:00 PM

At CWNC in Cranberry
Tuesday Evenings starting Sept. 26

At Seton LaSalle in Mt. Lebanon
Wednesday Evenings starting Sept. 27

Email DrEllen “at” to request a printable registration form.




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Camps in the News… 

G-MITES Game Design Program teaches theory, design by Caleb Harshberger, Cranberry Eagle

Grow a Generation Breeds Future Engineers and App Developers by Tyler Baum, Pittsburgh Youth Media

5th Grade Environmentalist Erin Cheek Interview Neighborhood Voices

STEM teenagers learn about the math and science of TrueAlleleTrue Allele Technology Newsletter June/July 2015 Newsletter

Platypus Hosts the STEM Careers Tour CMU Cooperative Robotic Watercraft Post

High School STEM Students Visit Point Park’s CSI House, Learn About Forensic Science  Point Park University Arts and Sciences News and Features

Making Meaningful Games: Firefighter Firefight

Future Engineers: 3-D Space Container Challenge

STEM Video Competition 2015

Monday’s STEM Career Tour 2015

Tuesday’s STEM Career Tour 2015

Wednesday STEM Career Tour 2015

Thursday STEM Career Tour 2015

2015 STEM Careers Tour – Friday 2015

Summer Camps @ CWNC 2016



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Aug 26

The 2017 Eclipse and the Inspiration it Inspired

August 21, 2017, the sky darkened and the kids from Baden Academy looked up with special glasses, with a special telescope, and with pinhole viewer reflections to be inspired.

Inspired they were!  Solar science is a popular theme as applications come in for this year’s research fellowships at Baden Academy.

I can’t wait to see which projects the staff and administration choose.

  • A book about a solar scientist who travels the world to capture two and a half minutes of data during an eclipse to learn more about the sun.
  • An astronomy club that meets once a month at night.
  • A mural and website about sun and the electromagnetic spectrum of photons that it emits
  •  A website about preventing radio, electrical, and digital information damage from solar flares and radiation.
  • And a plethora of science fair projects being proposed.  Plasma – here we come!

What have you been inspired to do?

Here are some resources you may want to explore!

Special thanks to Dan Fisher for the generous donation of the Celestron Telescope and Mylar filters to allow us some close up looks that day.

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Aug 13

Research Fellows Applications are now open

Research Fellowship Applications are now open for Grades 3-16, student groups, and faculty!

Baden Academy Charter School Research Fellowship Application
Deadline is Tuesday, September 5, 9:00 am 


Seton LaSalle Catholic High School Research Fellowship Application
Deadline is Monday, September 18, at 9:00 am


 Grow a Generation Research Fellowship Application
Deadline is Friday, September 29, 2017

Robert Minford and Baden Academy Research Fellows at FedEx

Amazing kids in grades 3 to 16, amazing faculty, gifted teachers, and community program coordinators have the opportunity to apply for a Research Fellowship and work hard to become a STEM Athlete, Digital Storyteller, and World Changer. Research Fellows are supported to design and follow through on robust and creative inquiries into what ignites their passion and celebrates their unique brilliance. They will produce meaningful projects and unique contributions that don’t simply add to their resume but engage them as autonomous and purposeful learners.

Fellows choose from diverse fields of study which pique their imaginations and resonate with their unique talents and individual passions. Their real-world project suggestions must make valuable contributions to the community that will be shared and disseminated with published materials, digital artifacts, and teaching opportunities.


Fellowships are year long projects (meeting about 60 minutes a week) that enable a student, group of students, teacher, or classroom to write a book, create a digital artefact, or compete in a national or international STEM competition.  Fellowships end in an artefact (digital artifact) worthy of portfolios, college (or grant) applications Students have mentioned that the world seems so much bigger to them after they finish a fellowship. You are invited to apply to become one of these Research Fellows and work to become a STEM Athlete, Digital Storyteller, and World Changer. Research Fellows are supported to design robust and creative inquiries into new STEM frontiers that ignite their passion and celebrate their unique brilliance. They produce meaningful projects and unique contributions that don’t simply add to their resume but engage them as autonomous and purposeful learners.

We help you pick your topic!  Fellows choose from diverse fields of study which pique their imaginations and resonate with their unique talents and individual passions. Their real-world project suggestions must make valuable contributions to the community that will be shared and disseminated with published materials, digital artifacts, competition entries, and teaching opportunities. A discussion with a fellowship coordinator allows us a chance to partner your interests with real world scientists, charitable organizations, and successful entrepreneurs looking to support students pursuing STEM.

Once accepted into the program, research fellows engage in projects that instill and strengthen a 21st-Century skill set of innovation, critical thinking, collaboration, emotional intelligence, resilience, leadership, and vision. A statement of goals and objectives is developed that identifies and applies skills and insights from multiple fields of study (e.g. science, technology, engineering, math, robotics, game design, medicine, energy, entrepreneurship, and leadership).

View of playlist of recent fellowship projects


Mentors from around the globe are solicited to assist our research fellows as they face the challenges of their project. Mentors communicate their own experience and take special interest in helping each fellow develop into a successful professional with unique interest and skills in their chosen field.  Innovation Lab Research Fellows’ mentors are specifically expected to:

●      Help the Research Fellow arrive at clearly stated goals and objectives of any proposed research projects;

●      Monitor the fellow’s research experience at least once a quarter to discuss progress, results and plans for next steps;

●      Participate as available in the completed projects celebrations in the press and in person.

Research and Teaching Mentors are also invited to join the fellows at an annual celebration at the end of the school year.

Past mentors include Dr. Teri Dankovich CEO Folio Water, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, RoPro Design, Software Engineers from Fed Ex, Beaver County Humane Society, ASPCA, Dream Flight Adventures, Beaver County Youth Entrepreneurship Network, Lincoln Learning Solutions, BeautyCounter, Park Rangers, Dr. Subha Das at CMU, Dr. Joseph Ayoob at University of Pittsburgh, Professors and Conservation Officers from New South Wales Australia, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, the Marine Mammal Center, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, the Epilepsy Foundation, Paws with a Cause, the Sisters of St. Joseph, Outreached Arms, Air Heritage Museum, Emergency Response Providers, RedMorph, Baden United Food Bank, We Schools, Future City, Future Engineers, TED-Ed Clubs, and FIRST Robotics.



Research Fellow authors create books with leading scientists, academics, and professionals about topics that inspire them. Once the books are written, student explore e-publishing, e-commerce and merchandising. Examples include:

●       Anna Rutkowski, while a senior at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, partnered with Dr. Teri Denkovich, to write Nanoparticle Superheroes Defeat Evil Microbes. The book tells the story of Dr. Denkovich’s invention of a silver nanoparticle-infused paper that makes polluted water drinkable for, potentially, millions of children and families around the world.

●       Gavin Phillips, now in 7th grade, has authored Saving a Galapagos Penguin Family and The Little Blue Penguins of North Sidney Harbour, and The King Penguins of the Falkland Islands.  Proceeds from his books benefit the United States National Aviary, the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife in Sydney Australia, and the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. Mentors have worked with Gavin (online from around the world) to oversee the scientific and cultural accuracy of his children’s books.

●       Jaylee Duncan, also in elementary school, partnered with the Marine Mammal Center to write Angie’s Tale: What Happened to Her Flipper?­ which tells the story of a heroic rescue of a sea lion, her amputation, and the concern of a community to set her back in the wild.

●       Kindergarten teacher’s Kelli Keriotis’ students each claimed a unique historical Crayola color, began with paper and crayon drawings and went on to create with the RGB computer codes with Google Drawings.  A Colorful Kindergarten illustrates their discoveries of color, its history and its expression.  Her second book, Newton’s Prism, featured students in classical portraits of Sir Isaac and the historical figures in the discovery of light and color.

Books are published through Lulu, a print-on-demand site. Authors make commercials, create products such as tee shirts, 3-D printed figurines of their original artwork, and learn to submit press releases and hold book signings.


Digital Storytellers create videos, vlogs, games, and animations to inform and inspire worthy work being done by non-profits, foundations, and amazing scientists around the globe (and in space!). Examples include:

●       Anthony and Christopher are the MG Boys.  They began two years ago by making videos and creating a website about molecular gastronomy called Lunch with Chemistry.  This past year they made videos alongside Dr. Das from the Carnegie Mellon University Das Lab and the chef from the Fairport.

●       Miriam and Jadyn are the Kitty Whisperers with their own YouTube Channel and the goal of raising awareness about the crisis of feral and free roaming cats. The students premiered their documentary on the Colony Cat program in Washington County at the International Animal Ethics Law Conference at Duquesne University.

●       Music Educator Shundeena Beard developed her website UpBeat Animations and the tutorials on her site to help her students learn more about music theory as they animated their musical compositions. (Even teachers apply for research fellowships!)

●       Kadie spent four years learning about entrepreneurship, e-commerce, and the profit margins of print on demand merchandise.  She recruited a team and shares her expertise with all research fellows who want to branch out into entrepreneurship with her website The website enables students and teachers to feature their artwork on posters, coffee mugs, iPad covers and key chains.  The team is mentored by the Beaver County Youth Entrepreneurship Collaborative.  The have learned how to digitize art and market it through a WordPress website.

●       Kamryn’s website K2k Activities provides an online tool for parents and educators that wish to help older siblings and parents develop into positive role models and empathetic, dynamic leaders.

●       Hannah Kimmick, a Kindergarten teacher, has been experimenting with 3-D printed alphabets produced in different fonts to see if the variety of letter shapes affect students’ learning of sight words. The project required her to learn Tinkercad 3-D modeling and print a complete set of Times New Roman and Arial shaped letters on the school’s 3-D printers. “I couldn’t have done it without all the student Future Engineers help!” Mrs. Kimmick explains to her students. You can find out more about her amazing project at


STEM Athletes serve as the business and communication leaders of Engineering, Robotics, Game Design, and App Development team competitions. FIRST Robotics, STEM Video Game Design Competitions, Hackathons such as the Space Apps Challenge or the Mylan Hackathon, and programs such as the Real World Design Challenge provide an opportunity to for students to develop leadership and STEM skills.  STEM Athletes are provided a mentor/coach for support and leadership training. Competition teams meet for the season and can be applied for as a group. Afterschool programs (programming, robotics, cyber security, game design) run for a school year.

  • Five students from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic contracted for a Verizon Innovative App Challenge Team. They met six weeks to learn some rudimentary programming, develop a mobile app concept, story board their app proposal, and film a mobile app pitch.  The team won Best in State, then Best in Nation, winning over $20,000 for their school, tablets, and the opportunity to attend and present at the national TSA conference. Read more at
  • Check out the film from last year’s Baden Academy Future Cities Competition Team where 10 students worked on virtual and real world artifacts to demonstrate their knowledge of civil engineering.
  • The Baden Academy Nerd Battalion Leaders choose their curriculum each year and then recruit teachers to help! Last year focused on QWERTY keyboards and Arduinos.
  • Teacher Amy Murray from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic completed a fellowship which included developing a Zebrafish aquaria in her classroom, partnering with a mentor to help with embryonic research, and encouraging original research by her students to compete in the Pittsburgh Science and Engineering Fair (winning two sponsor awards).
  • Future Engineers leaders helped 14 students submit competition entries to the NASA Future Engineers competition. Their video was featured on the national website.


Research Fellows will meet weekly in small groups for discovery and collaboration. Fellowship projects must be completed and archived to present at the annual celebration. The first few sessions will include setting up a specific mission and the online files for correspondence. Fellows will have access to collaborative online tools, tutorial videos, and examples that enable them to work with a mentor to develop their idea or concept and set up a realistic timetable and steps needed to complete their project. Additional support is available during the week through email.


Some school districts will sponsor a limited number of fellowships or you can apply directly to Grow a Generation to become a research fellow.  Prices start at $320 per month.  The process for selection includes review by the Grow a Generation team, the faculty and administration of the school, and an interview.  Individual meetings are recommended to create a winning proposal. Contact to schedule one.


The deadline for fellowship application packets varies. Use the links at the beginning of the post to look for upcoming deadlines for the 2017-18 school year. Scholarships and aid are available.



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Aug 13

Google It – A Tour of Google Pittsburgh

Google! STEM Career tours recently gave 12 students the chance to go and see the Google Pittsburgh office located in Bakery Square. There, they were greeted by representatives of Google who showed them around their entire facility. It was inspiring to see so many bright young minds light up as they walked through the offices of the people who make their favorite search engine a reality. The biggest eye catcher for the students was seeing all of the code that was being written by all of the software engineers. Seeing the amount of work and coding that goes into the Google search engine really caught the attention of the students. The students were also amazed at seeing the sheer amount of resources that are made available to every google employee that works at the office, and really enjoyed learning about the camps that Google run to help students get on a path towards a career in STEM and hopefully a job or internship with Google!

Later in the tour, the students got the chance to sit down and play through a game called “Code Combat” which is a game that teaches the beginning levels of coding as they play. This was a wonderful opportunity to give the students a chance to get familiar with what coding is like and what the software engineers at Google work with all day. We also had the pleasure of getting a Q&A with 4 of the members of the Google team. They all shared their stories of what it’s like working at Google and about their experiences working in a STEM field.

They also explained how they changed their career paths many times and they did a lot of trial and error to get to the point that they are in today. The process of trial and error is very similar to the coding process, as most of the time the code won’t work on their first try, and they must do trial and error to fix all of the bugs. This was particularly interesting to hear about and the students all were inspired by everything they saw and hear about that by the end of the tour they all wanted to become software engineers! The students had a wonderful time and we thank Google for finding time in their days to welcome the STEM Career Tour!




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Aug 04

Creating Games to Inspire



Ready Player One!

Students came together for a weeklong G-Mites Game Design class at Seton LaSalle High School Innovation Lab.  The team created a game for the Outreached Arms ministry to the homeless. The game has a player become a homeless person making big decisions in Pittsburgh.  Good decisions lead to Outreached Arms where they can find a meal, counseling to find affordable housing and a connection to a community of support.  The game, called “Changing Oliver’s Life,” features a story with choices to play through, as well as three mini games integrated within it.The game will be playable on a computer at Outreached Arms to help raise awareness of homelessness and show people what hardships a homeless person goes through in life.



Throughout the week, the students also learned core principles of game design from the words of Jesse Schell, the world renowned game designer from Carnegie Mellon University and Schell Games. The week was very challenging, but the students were up to the task of creating this game.


The group brought a diversity of talent and abilities.  Two of the students, Tianchen (Steve) Shi and Jiangrong (Bob) Jia were from China and came here to learn more about game design and hopefully find a future career. Bob worked mainly with integrating the “pac-man like” mini game that was put into the game. Bob also worked on his video making skills and putting together a video that showcased the week’s work. Steve, worked on one of the mini games as well and helped put together the final pieces of the game.

Another student, Sam Carroll, who is a student at Seton LaSalle High School worked on the backbone of the game and put together all of the choices and slides that would play for the game. This was Sam’s first time working with the Scratch programming language and he truly did a remarkable job integrating all of the pieces. CJ Inkenhaus, a 6th grader, created the Tetris game that was put into the game. He also worked hard on putting together the website to showcase the game and creating the sprites that were put into the final game. It was also his first time learning photoshop, and he was excited to use the tool for the first time.

You can check out the website here!


During the week, we took a trip down to Outreached Arms to gain input on our games direction. There, we met with Sharon Boone and her son Rob, who gave us great advice on how we could improve our game. We also, ironically, met with a man named Oliver who told us his story of how he went from being homeless to being at Outreached Arms.

Though the game had one element that wasn’t quite ready at the end of the week, the students learned a lot about the game design process. They learned more about integrating emotional elements in the game and learned how to troubleshoot. Two of the student’s, Steve and Sam, were gracious enough to continue working on the game even after the week was finished to ensure the game would be 100% complete.



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Jul 30

Motivating a Teenage Boy

The Game Design class ended on a Friday with the team pleading for more time to finish the game on their own until it was posted. The challenge was accepted and I gave them a new deadline of the following Wednesday if they wanted to work on their own.  And work they did! Over 30 more hours into debugging and trouble shooting to make their game Changing Oliver’s Life for a local Pittsburgh Homeless Service called Outreached Arms.

You can play through their final game and watch a short film about the project at their website Debugging was a problem when they combined games and the grids from one didn’t fit over the grid from another.  One coordinate at a time needed moved.  Another creative solution came about when Steve (a visiting student from Shanghai High School) suggested a remake of Tetris, where the objective is to build, not delete rows.  He randomized the row placement and made a challenging game (you have to play through to the point that Oliver chooses the dish “Get Housing” at Outreached Arms).

What was the secret sauce?

+ PURPOSE:  The project was one they believed in (they went to Outreached Arms and met some of the homeless, including one, a college graduate and Texas football player named Oliver).  The project had the potential to change real lives or at least bring awareness and contributions to people with boots on the ground really helping the homeless.

+ AUTONOMY:  Their names were associated with this, but they also worked as a team.  This type of project is seen as something to make them stand out on a college or scholarship application.  They were able to complete and take ownership of their individual part (listen to Bob’s description in the video of the pride he felt completing his part), oversee the incorporation of each part into the whole, and create the quotes and description of themselves for the website.

+ MASTERY:  Thank you to Jesse Schell for the Art of Game Design cards that helped them incorporate elements of good game design. Using Scratch (or any open sourced platform) has the advantage of grabbing code from another person’s project and tweaking it to make it your own. It is a great way to introduce advanced programming concepts in a short time frame and to teach someone to be an independent learner.  That allowed for students to go home and continue to build.

I am pasting the game and video below.  I encourage you to open and make comments to encourage these amazing kids.

If you are looking for a meaningful project made possible that your child can participate in, fill out the survey for the Fall 2017 G-MITE Camp offerings.  CLICK TO TAKE SURVEY  or consider applying for a Research Fellowship and have your child lead a team in a game design project  RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP APPLICATIONS.

And yes, at this game design class I was asking, where are the girls!



The game requires Flash, so you need to be at a computer to play.
​If the link below doesn’t work, visit the Scratch website to play:  Changing Oliver’s Life


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Jul 24

Game Design in the Skies above Bastogne

Let the game begin! Students in the G-Mites Game Design program recently converged at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School to take part in a week long camp to create, design, and program a video game and create a webpage to sell game merchandise. One of the game designers, Grant Harsch, chose the theme for the video game. He wanted a game that focused on the World War II C-47 Skytrain nicknamed “The Luck of the Irish” that is being restored at the Air Heritage Museum at the Beaver County Airport. The game, aptly named “Skytrain Cargo Run,” tells the story of the Luck of the Irish’s mission into the Battle of Bastogne.  The plane and its crew dropped critically needed ammo to the fighting soldiers. As well as making the game, the students also learned the core principles of game design. Learning from the words of world renowned game designer, Dr. Jesse Schell if CMU, the students used what they learned to create and improve their game.

The game design team was small but mighty and were all determined to get their game completed in the week long camp. The lead programmer, Grant, was responsible for creating the central game play and did an amazing job crafting the cargo drop scene. He created the scripts and sprites himself and programmed “flak” that would try and distract the player as it was flying. Grant said “I learned that to have an effective game, the player needs to feel joy, love, excitement, surprise”.  

Another student at the camp, Nicholas Lytle, created the opening cut scene to the game. You can hear his voice narrating sections. “I really enjoyed learning how to use scratch and seeing the pilots at Air Heritage play the game,” Nicholas said.

Along with the game design part of the camp, there was also a student that focused on learning e-commerce skills. Lauren Karg created a website to sell merchandise with profits going to the Air Heritage Museum.  Lauren explained,  “I learned how to make a product catalog, make a website, and sell things online as well as learn a lot about World War II.”  

Everyone came together during lunch as well to play fun games, with their favorite game clearly being a game called “Liar’s Dice” which taught important principles of game randomness and probability.  

The topic of virtual and augmented reality was explored.  We had a generous donation of virtual reality headsets from the Pittsburgh Zoo.  Kids were amazed at the altered sense of reality that these headsets created.  They listened in rapt attention to Jesse Schell discuss the future of Virtual Reality from a recording at the Augmented World Expo. Several mentioned a desire to start a Virtual Reality G-Mites class in the fall!

The students took their finished game to the Air Heritage Museum and had some of the pilots play through the game. The students all loved seeing the pilot’s faces light up with joy as they played the game. The main purpose of this camp was to teach students the basics of game design.  Game Design is not just a skill for ‘gamers.’  It is a new way to think about design, to think about engaging another person in the story you want to tell in a participatory way, it is a way to fix a reality that is not as fun and engaging as the games we play.  All of the students had a wonderful time at the camp and have a new artefact (a digital artifact) to add to their portfolios and include in their college and scholarship applications!  Thank you to the Air Heritage Museum for their incredible support and enthusiasm of their staff into our Game Design Odyssey.

Visit the team website, play their game, buy some swag, and leave a comment!



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