Professor wins Google grant to offer game-design workshop

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Photo of Dr. Pnina .

Ari-Gur

KALAMAZOO—A Western Michigan University professor has won a grant from Google to teach skills in 3-D computer modeling and game design to high school computer science instructors. Equipped with these new skills, the high school instructors can then teach the computer applications to their own students.

The $13,500 award is from Google’s Computer Science for High School program, or CS4HS, an initiative to promote computer science and computational thinking in high school and middle school curricula. The idea is to stir up student interest in computer science professions.

"We want to teach high school educators topics that will be fun for them to introduce in class and thereby help attract students to computer science careers and to the promising field of game design," says Dr. Pnina Ari-Gur, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the principal investigator on the grant. Ari-Gur's co-principal investigators are: Dr. Pavel Ikonomov, associate professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering; Dr. Daniel Litynski, vice president for research; and Dr. Roman Rabiej, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Universities chosen for a CS4HS award from Google's Education Group offer two- to three-day workshops to middle and high school computer science instructors. WMU's workshop for high school teachers is set to take place on July 1, 2 and 8 at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Open to secondary-school educators nationwide, Ari-Gur says the course will be limited to 25 participants. By the end of it, teachers will have developed simple game modules and be able to teach their newly acquired skills.

The WMU team developing the CS4HS workshop has long experience with computer simulation that supports classroom instruction. The team created a series of virtual-reality science labs that have been used in some materials sciences classes at WMU's engineering college as well as at other educational institutions. The virtual labs are computer simulations of the tools and materials of a physical laboratory. The other schools also using these WMU-created virtual labs are: the Instituto Federal de Educação Ciência e Tecnologia do Maranhão in Brazil, Louisiana (Baton Rouge) State University and Muskegon (Mich.) Community College.

This effort, which Ari-Gur and her team started with two grants from Hewlett Packard several years ago, was most recently funded by a National Science Foundation grant to support the creation of new virtual labs and improve on existing ones.

For information on how to apply to take part in the CS4HS workshop, contact Ari-Gur at mae-cs4hs@wmich.edu.