Teaching healthy lifestyle habits through gaming

Wiregrass Gaming and Computer Programming students attend CDC Health Game Jam 2013. / Wiregrass

Wiregrass computer science and gaming students put their love of gaming to the test this past weekend in Atlanta. They spent what some would consider as a grueling 48 hours working non-stop on two game designs. To these students, those long hours of programming and designing were well worth it as they got to put their knowledge and skills to the test doing something they enjoy.

Tim Drexler, computer science programming coordinator took 11 Wiregrass students to Southern Polytechnic State University to participate in the CDC Health Game Jam 2013. The CDC Health Game Jam brought together college students from across the state for the purpose of planning, designing, and creating a game in just two days. The focus of this year's event was to create a game that addressed a large scale health priority championed by the CDC. Each game was judged by professional game developers which allowed students to put their product in front of potential employers and mentors. The CDC provided experts in the field of viruses, obesity, and safety to give the teams support for their designs.

"The CDC Game Jam was an opportunity for the Game Design students at Wiregrass to participate in an event that brought together students from many different colleges, towards the goal of building a game that would entertain and teach the public about various health concerns. The fact that the Center for Disease Control was there to help guide the students gave them valuable experience working with real world professionals on real world problems and trying to use their skills for the betterment of society," stated Tim Drexler.

The Wiregrass student teams built two games during the weekend event. The first game prototype was called Operation Breakout and was designed by students Ross Potter, Jeff Sermons, Brien Semken, Justin Bollen, and Robert Smith. Players in this board game take the role of a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist and a researcher. They must work together in order to stop different viruses and bacterial infections from spreading throughout the hospital. The players learn about the importance of cross contamination, washing hands, and poor sterilization and how these effect the spreading of viruses and bacterial infections as they maneuver through the game.

The second game prototype called Hunger Pains was built by students Brandon Williams, Seth Haskins, Tyran Steedley, Tim Prue, and Caleb Henderson. The players in this board game traverse around a board, eating food on every turn. Players must balance a monthly budget while trying to eat healthy and maintain a normal cholesterol level. Players learn about LDL (bad cholesterol) and about which foods (including fast food and healthy food) are high or low in LDL.

The teams presented their games on Sunday afternoon and the finalists were announced. The winning design will be announced on October 4 at the Games for Health Day at SIEGE Atlanta (Southern Interactive Entertainment and Game Expo).

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College offers several associate degree programs in computer programming, gaming development, and networking. Fall Semester B Term begins October 16 and new students are being accepted now.

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