Creating Video Games Helps MPS Students Build Confidence, STEM

Students at Montgomery Public Schools sit in chairs in front of a stage, waiting for their teams to be called in to present a video game they spent a semester designing. The finalist teams come from Baldwin, Southlawn and Bellingrath.

In collaboration with Ed Farm, the students took a course called Introduction to Innovation. The class hook – design your own video game – gave students a gateway to learning art, STEM, project management, coding, teamwork and more.

On Friday, they took turns presenting their games at Urban Nerd Con at the Cramton Bowl.

Southlawn’s game is called “Survive Covid”. Bellingrath has a video game about the intersection of poverty and pollution. Baldwin’s game – “A Normal Zoo” – tackles animal abuse.

Emma Courington, student scholarship specialist at Ed Farm, who also worked with classes during the semester, said the themes were chosen by the students themselves. They were told they had to pick a project, and they went their own way from there,” Courington said.

Southlawn Middle School students celebrate after their video game was announced the winner during Urban Nerd Con at the Cramton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery, Ala., Friday, July 29, 2022.

She said children are much more aware than we think when asked about heavy topics.

“I said, ‘Hey, you as a team, you have to find a challenge that you’re passionate about,'” she said. by the students.

Children have PowerPoint presentations that explain the themes and design of the games. Each team has a slide filled with the art of their main characters, usually colorful and each in a different art style from the others.

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Tina Lewis was the Bellingrath team teacher, although she is moving to Southlawn School this school year. She encourages her team throughout the event.

In the end, Southlawn’s “Survive Covid” was announced the winner. Voting came from two sources: there were three judges, but Urban Nerd Con attendees could also vote at booths manned by kids throughout the day.

Team member Jacody Brown talked about how much fun they’ve had over the year.

“So we would have lost? We would have been just as happy,” Jacody said.

AnyAni Trivia's Nia Sanders hosts an Anime Trivia Contest during Urban Nerd Con at the Cramton Bowl Multiplex in Montgomery, Ala. on Friday, July 29, 2022.

They were a little worried, he said, because COVID cases were going down and they weren’t sure their idea was still relevant.

Then the cases increased over the summer. In their presentation, they argued that COVID should be taken seriously and that many people had died.

The team had rehearsed the presentation leading up to the big event. They were still nervous.

Beth Sanders, vice president of learning at Ed Farm, shared how she’s seen the kids’ confidence grow over the semester. The kids now standing on stage and talking to strangers in booths were the ones she never imagined at the start of the semester.

Jemma Stephenson is a children’s and education reporter for the Montgomery Advertiser. She can be reached at [email protected] or 334-261-1569.

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