November 7, 2019School of Design’s App.Farm Games Make Big Progress this Fall
Since 2015, students in the School of Design’s App.Farm have been developing digital games, card games and apps that excite learners, and this fall, two projects are meeting major milestones.
The App.Farm is an innovative studio experience created to research how content learning occurs through the design and production process. It is led by School of Design’s Cary Staples, professor, and Timothy Arment, lecturer, along with an interdisciplinary group of students from across UT. They all have one thing in common: The belief in the power of games to aid learning.
“Games provide a robust platform for learning because they are highly contextualized, goal-oriented environments,” said Staples. “That is to say they afford players the drive to attain an objective within a constrained, pre-determined universe.”
Est-ce que tu parles francais?
Thanks to the App.Farm, students in UT’s French classes soon will have a mobile resource to complement the current French curriculum.
This fall, students from the college’s School of Design as well as UT’s computer science and music programs are moving the App.Farm’s game, Bonne Chance, from proof of concept to screen prototype.
Bonne Chance is an app that takes the form of a French cultural immersion game to provide learners with an opportunity to encounter language in context.
Set in the future, Bonne Chance, which translates to “good luck,” leads the player through a mystery featuring a main character, Elodie, and a helpful robot. The duo must travel through time to various French locales solving clues to fix damage done to the time continuum by an evil villain.
Elodie, and therefore the player, experience various forms of the French language as they travel through the game, immersing the player in a fun and engaging learning experience.
Leveraging research generated by previous App.Farm teams, Graphic Design students Taylor Bogle and John Saunders have brought the game’s characters to life in animated forms, while Jacob Duffy, a computer science student, is completing code for the first “boss battle.”
The game prototype will be available for download to Android hand-held devices this December. The game will be delivered in “chapters,” so students can complete one level at a time.
“This project is built on a growing body of work that demonstrates effective approaches to teaching strategic thinking and reasoning,” said Arment. “Using cross-functional teams, students and faculty collaborate to facilitate the design and development of a specific project from a granular level.”
Learning life skills is a challenge for people who are on the autism spectrum or who have intellectual disabilities, but virtual reality might be a solution.
Since 2017, students in the App.Farm have been exploring the possibilities inherent in a VR space. The current question is whether a task learned in VR can generalize to the real world.
“Learning tasks through VR can help people with disabilities practice a life skill before they attempt the skill in real life,” said Jared Robson, a Graphic Design student and member of the App.Farm team.
The team is developing a VR experience that teaches skills to autistic learners, the first of which involves prepping, making and cooking a pizza. With new team members, Interior Architecture student Kathryn Hopkins and Arment, who have experience in 3D rendering and modeling, this project is moving forward more quickly than expected.
The team is collaborating with David Cihak, UT professor of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education, and a primary investigator for the FUTURE Post-Secondary Education Program, a two-year program for college students with intellectual disabilities and autism. Cihak’s research studies effects of VR/AR (augmented reality) to improve academic skills in students with disabilities.
The VR student developers expect to have a proof of concept to begin writing grant proposals in November 2019.