Building the Universe

March 28, 2020
Becker News

Becker students help create free educational game

An educational game, designed with the help of Becker College students and faculty, is being offered free of charge to children.  “Building the Universe” is one of the games that East Hartford-based TheBeamer LLC is offering online for free while schools are closed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the company’s website, In “Building the Universe,” players start at the Big Bang with quarks and assemble the Universe’s atoms, stars, galaxies, and planets, and eventually create a habitable planet Earth.

“It teaches students ages 11-18 about science,” said Keo Heng, assistant professor of interactive media at Becker College. “It is based on the Stardust Mystery story that TheBeamer is creating; a book is in the works.”

Heng noted that he and his students have been working on the project for about a year and a half.

“Games that teach have always been a special focus of the College’s Interactive Media Design program, from helping youngsters learn how to safely ride the bus, to providing virtual instruction to medical students in emergency room best practice, said Paul Cotnoir, associate dean of Becker College School of Design & Technology. “’Building the Universe’ is another chapter in showing how Becker students and faculty can apply their game design skills to the betterment of society.”

Several Becker College game design students have been working on the project while interning at TheBeamer.

“I did play tests for each build that was released, looking for bugs to fix, “ said Sarith Sun, who interned with TheBeamer and graduated from Becker College in December with a degree in game design. “I also worked on the face animations for the game.”

Sun said that the studio labs at Becker helped to prepare him for the internship.

“A lot of the software and workflows were the same or similar, so I was already comfortable with most of the programs and was able to get on-board fairly quickly and start to do actual work,” he said, adding that he’d “gained a lot of invaluable knowledge working with TheBeamer.”

“Working with TheBeamer has been great. It’s been very collaborative,” Heng said. “It’s also been a great experience for the students to work on a game in the educational space. It’s gone so well that we applied to some future grants with the company.”

Heng added that Becker’s involvement has involved more than just working on “Building the Universe.”

“We also created a lot of the video content, including science learning videos, for TheBeamer’s YouTube page,” he said.

Sun worked on the trailer for the game.

“What I enjoyed the most was working on character animations for the cinematic videos that I produced,” he said.

“Building the Universe” was partially funded by a National Science Foundation grant. Descriptions and links to the game are available on TheStardustMystery.com website. In-game FAQ help and How-To Videos can be found at Stardust Mystery YouTube Channel, and email help is also available to support new video game players. Links to free resources from the National Science Teachers Association are available here: https://www.nsta.org/membership/free-exhibitor-resources.aspx.

To learn more about the programs offered through Becker College’s School of Design & Technology, go to https://www.becker.edu/academic/academic-programs/design-technology/.

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