Dig-It! Games is proud to announce the release of their newest app, Wheatley Days: a compilation of student projects by sixth, seventh and eighth graders. The free iOS app is the product of a partnership with the Wheatley Education Campus in Washington, DC. The app includes 18 levels of student-produced game prototypes and 3D artwork that allows users to view the creativity and innovation that the middle school students demonstrated during a recent visit to the Dig-It! Games studio.
In April 2015, 73 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from DC Public Schools’ Wheatley Education Campus participated in field trips to the Bethesda-based game development studio. Students were tasked with designing a game level prototype based on a provided template. They started the day with brainstorming sessions where they collaborated on the design for a maze-game prototype. Dig-It! Games developers then built the prototype to the students’ specifications, working to bring these games to life exactly as the students envisioned them, with varying degrees of difficulty, unique obstacles, and storylines.
The students learned to manipulate the code used to build the prototypes and used 3D software to build and customize one of the in-game objects.
“There’s no question that this experience changed these kids’ perspectives on technology,” said Suzi Wilczynski, Founder and President of Dig-It! Games. “From the start of their visit, it was obvious that the kids were reevaluating the games and devices they use everyday.”
Wilczynski feels the most important take-away for students was in the empowerment of knowing that they made a real, playable game. The experience transformed their thinking from a vague idea of game development into a new perspective of what they are capable of, both inside and outside the classroom.
“Students who initially thought coding involved too much math finished the day considering a career in programming,” said Wilczynski. “Quiet students blossomed when put in charge of a gamified version of project management. Geometry and art came together and suddenly cones, cylinders, and vectors jumped off the worksheet page and became real things to be manipulated to form objects. It was remarkable to watch these kids as their perspective on STEM changed dramatically in a matter of hours.”
Wheatley Days combines the 18 individual student-imagined game prototypes with the 3D artwork the students created into a free iOS app. The prototypes are based on a maze mini-game in Dig-It! Games’ Roman Town™ app. Students were shown how a few simple code changes can turn an everyday maze game into an avoid-the-walls challenge or a fun platformer. They were able to choose the layout for their prototype and collaborated with their teammates to decide on the level of difficulty and storyline of the game.
“The students really enjoyed being able to make something tangible,” commented Wilczynski. “The most exciting part of the day was when they got to play the game they made. The pride they took in showing their game to their classmates was palatable.”
The field trips with Wheatley Education Campus represent one component of Dig-It! Games’ school outreach programs. The company is committed to working with and inspiring middle school students through field trips, school visits to tech-based clubs, science fair participation, studio open houses, interactive game launch events, and beta testing opportunities.
“Hands-on STEAM experiences like the Wheatley Education Campus field trip can motivate kids towards careers they had not previously considered; beyond that, it provides a group of students with skills that directly transfer to the real world, including collaboration, delegation and persistence,” said Wilczynski. “As we consider the upcoming academic year, we’re looking to take this experience and make it available for more students on both a local and national level.”