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Youth Computer Game Designers Awarded at State Contest


  • Chris Brooks, President, TechStart Education Foundation, brookscl@computer.org, (503) 476-3675
  • John Ossowski, Director of Programs, TechStart Education Foundation, John.Ossowski@sao.org,  503-802-5211.
  • Bruce Schafer, Executive Director, Engineering and Technology Industry Council, Oregon University System, Bruce_Schafer@ous.edu, (503) 725-2915

Photo of Team Phred available here.

Philomath High School team named champion among 21 teams at 1st annual Oregon Gaming Project Challenge

Portland, Oregon, May 22, 2008 – Last Saturday, while most Oregon students enjoyed their weekend in the sun, about 100 teens spent their day revealing their computer expertise to some of this state’s leaders in the technology industry at a computer game development contest. TechStart Education Foundation and the Oregon Engineering and Technology Industry Council (ETIC) hosted 21 teams from high schools around the state in the first annual Oregon Gaming Project Challenge 1.0 (http://techstart.org/ogpc.html) at Chemeketa Community College in Salem. At the end of the day, the six-student team from Philomath High School took home the Champion trophy for the best computer game.

The OGPC 1.0 challenged student teams to develop, design and present a computer game based on the science behind today’s energy issues. The contest offered Oregon students an opportunity to have fun and be innovative as they applied their interest in computer science to solving social issues with games.

“The judges were blown away by the creative use of the energy theme by the teams and how they were able to put together games that were challenging, fun and educational,” said Chris Brooks, the head judge and president of the TechStart Board.

After two-plus months spent developing their games, teams brought entries to the OGPC 1.0 event for professional and peer judging and a tournament awards ceremony. A runner-up champion for overall game development was also recognized. This year’s runner-up champion team was the Lebanon High School Tech Warriors. First and second place trophies were also awarded to teams for game R&D, programming, game experience, presentation, and teamwork.

TechStart worked closely with ETIC’s Computer Science Task Force to put on this first-of-its-kind event. Though the demand for technology expertise grows in both low-tech and high-tech industries in Oregon, the number of students entering secondary education programs in computer science is decreasing. Programs such as the OGPC give students an opportunity to experience the possibilities in technology.

“Students like those who attended Saturday’s event may become professional game designers while others will be creating new ways to use computers and technology to solve the many challenges our society faces,” said Bruce Schafer, ETIC Executive Director. “As game theory and real-time simulation techniques continue to evolve, we might even see students who will do game design and address societal issues at the same time.”

Student winners on Saturday included Philomath Team Phred members Paul Atkinson, 9th grade; Ray Cochran, 12th grade; Emily Dunham, 10th grade; Anna Maxfield, 10th grade; Taj Morton, 12th grade; and Karl Payne, 9th grade. Team Phred was coached by Bill Atkinson and Tom Thompson.

“This was a really great challenge because the designers of the competition left the options open, and we saw a wide variety of approaches that successfully integrated the energy theme,” said Emily Dunham of team Phred. “I'd never programmed before the challenge and found it really inspiring to see how many varieties of games could be created.”

“This really was a great student team effort,” said Phred coach Tom Thompson. “Each team member could contribute something significant even if they weren't the best programmer, writer or artist. In the end, the great thing about competition day was that our team was able to see how others had solved the challenge. Some team members were reluctant to present to other students or judges, but when they finally did present they did a great job and now we’re looking forward to the next challenge.”

Other award winners included: West Salem High School, Game Experience 1st place; Sunset High School, Game Experience 2nd place; Lincoln High School, Game R&D 1st place; Amity High School, Game R&D 2nd place; Jesuit High School, Presentation 1st place; North Bend High School, Presentation 2nd place; Sandy High School, Programming 1st place; Sunset High School, Programming 2nd place; Benson High School, Teamwork 1st place, and, Tigard High School, Teamwork 2nd place.

The TechStart Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded in 2003 by the Software Association of Oregon (www.sao.org), a trade association with more than 400 member organizations. TechStart strives to awaken a passion for all of technology among all Oregon students by helping to make technology-related educational opportunities available to them via a number of programs. For additional information, go to www.techstart.org

Oregon's Engineering & Technology Industry Council (ETIC) was established in 1997 to plan and oversee improvements in engineering and computer science programs of the Oregon University System with a focus on better serving industry's and state needs. The voting members of ETIC are industry executives who meet regularly with leaders from Oregon public university campuses to develop strategic plans and associated implementation plans. One of ETIC’s goals is to double the number of graduates from Oregon’s engineering and computer science programs. For additional information, go to www.oregonetic.org

The Oregon University System (OUS) comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services, and lifelong learning. The Oregon State Board of Higher Education, the statutory governing board of OUS, is composed of eleven members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Oregon State Senate. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu

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