The Richmond Register

February 16, 2014

Central's Innovation Lab teaches programming, gaming

Special to the Register

RICHMOND — While gaming may not always be permitted at school, The Innovation Lab at Madison Central High School gives students the opportunity to learn computer programming, with gaming as the current focus.

During the first semester of the school year, students researched the different job opportunities the gaming industry has to offer and then took on various roles: game designer, game tester, programming and production.

Using a program called Scratch, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, class members designed and created their own two-dimensional computer games.

The class is tackling the game-controller aspect of gaming using the MaKey MaKey “easy-to-use invention kit.” The kit includes seven alligator clips, six connector wires and one USB cable.

Teacher Alison Fox was awarded a $500 Bechtel-Parsons Grant, given to teachers at any grade level who plan on using new or interesting strategies with science, math, or technology in their classrooms.

The MaKey MaKey system allows the students to make most anything into a game controller. Students researched items that are conductive (aluminum foil, Play-Doh, people) and would complete the circuit and run the game.

Split into groups of two or three, students where given the task of making a new controller for the game assigned.

The “Piggy Push” online game was chosen for students Sarah Dalton, Dylan Ingram and Timothy Sharp. With the title “Piggy Push,” students used a controller made of a crate lined with aluminum foil and used a pig fashioned from Play-Doh as a handheld controller to move the pig in the game.

To make the controller function, students used a MaKey MaKey system inside of the crate and used alligator clips to connect the system to foil on the outside, with the foil serving as arrow keys. Both aluminum foil and Play-Doh are conductive materials.

A group consisting of Stuart Thorburn, Nick Warren and Ricky Campbell made a controller for the game “Flappy Bird,” where players try to keep the bird from touching the ground or the pipes.

Students made a controller using only tin foil, and the gamer must step on it to make Flappy Bird jump. This type of controller was chosen because it is easy to use and adds an extra level of difficulty to the game. This design is preferred because it also is portable, colorful and has a wooden birdhouse attached, just for fun.

The “Drawfender” game group ― CJ Worsley, Savannah Burton and Jonathan Richardson ― wanted to develop a controller that made the game more exciting and more of a challenge.

The original game uses a computer mouse as the controller. But to change the game play, students created a controller using aluminum foil, a pencil and a MaKey MaKey system.

The controller involved the use of a pencil to touch the foil squares, created as a substitute to the action of moving the mouse. When touching the squares, it moves the cursor around in the same way one would use the mouse to control the game. This made “Drawfender” less precise, making it more challenging and entertaining.

Ben Griffin, Jason Bowlin and James Hunt took on “Nickelodeon’s Hardest Game Ever.”

The controller is a stuffed owl, with a mohawk (that is seriously adorable), which students call the “controwler.”

Cords were connected to the owl’s wings, which has aluminum foil inside. For the controller to work properly with the game, students created a bracelet with a cord connection to conduct energy in the owl controller.

Kris Woodard, Michael Doak and Charles Ramsay, was tasked with creating a controller for the game “Shopping Cart Hero 3.”

The group’s original plan was to create a life-size shopping cart so the player could really get into the game. Instead, students designed a miniature version.

A controller was crafted out of aluminum foil for the arrow keys, a little basket to symbolize the shopping cart and a smaller button in the middle as the space bar or a “hit bar.” The up, down, left, right aluminum buttons do different tricks to get a higher score.

Tenny Akihary, Rebecca Reid and Jordan Knuckles were assigned to create a controller for the game “Ninja Miners.”

A ninja travels through the underground mines looking for gems and stars to increase his score.

Students created pipe-cleaner buttons that, after testing, students decided to cover in aluminum foil so that the connection would be easier to press when using your feet. The buttons are shaped corresponding to the game, complete with gems, stars and swords.

“Parking” was the game assigned to Seth Baker, DeAndre’ Kirby, Alex Still and Jake Burkett. The gamer must navigate a small car through strange-sized parking lots without wrecking.

The group’s original game controller idea was to use a gas and brake pedal, made from aluminum foil, and to make a full-size steering wheel.

Instead, students created a miniature version using scrap toy car parts. After some trial-and-error, students created a working game controller that was similar to driving an actual car, only miniature.

This article was written by students of the MCHS Innovation Lab.