Gaming for the Greater Good
An Introduction to Computer Science

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Projects for the newly-designed course, Gaming for the Greater Good, must meet a socially relevant need or educational purpose.  Most of the groups of four to five students have tackled the mandate by designing educational, Atari- and Nintendo inspired games. In one game, the player must shoot the correct multiples of a given number, or the result of a given equation. Another game tests the player’s recognition of elements and molecular bonds. Another innovative game tests the user on penmanship.

Through their work in the course, students acquire both sound programming skills and a knowledge of engineering production. “One of the most important aspects of the class is going through the engineering lifecycle,” states Chesney, “Design. Build. Test.”

Working up to a “trade-show” type demonstration, his students incorporate feedback they received from peers and faculty. “They’re absolutely, 100% enthused about what they’re doing," reports Prof. Chesney. "They have a strong sense of ownership.”

Chesney suspects an appetite for social change drives some of the enthusiasm he has seen in the course. Going forward, he hopes to improve the diversity of the student body, and involve students from a nontraditional population who are interested in doing something "for the greater good."

Chesney admits to having had some reservations about introducing this course to a young population, most of whom are not used to working in groups. "But," he remarks, “they’ve been a wonderful group to work with.”  When Chesney has identified groups that are not functioning as well as they are capable, he has pulled aside the most technically proficient student for a pep talk. He helps them understand that they can either do all the work themselves, or they can help the group members understand the material, in which case there is a real team working on the project, instead of just one individual.

At the end of the course, Chesney hopes that students have begun to take an autonomous approach to problem-based learning. He states, “I’ve succeeded in teaching when they learn independent of me talking and lecturing.”