ISU design, computer science collaboration receives Motorola Foundation grant for game development competition

AMES, Iowa - The Iowa State University College of Design and Department of Computer Science will use a $50,000 grant from the Motorola Foundation to host a yearlong game development competition for ISU students majoring in design, technology, communication and business disciplines.

The Motorola Foundation's Innovation Generation program provides more than $7.5 million to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs across the U.S. Iowa State received funding in the university grant category, which supports hands-on, innovative seminars and design competitions for undergraduate and graduate students.

Anson Call, ISU associate professor of integrated studio arts, and Chris Johnson, lecturer in computer science, will serve as advisers for the Iowa State competition.

Chris Johnson

"I see a significant number of my students with interests beyond the technical," said Johnson, who teaches first-year computer programming. "Many are musical, many are artists, many love to write. When Anson suggested we put on a game competition to break down the walls between our respective academic programs, I jumped at the idea."

"Students are already doing game design in their spare time and not earning academic credit for it," said Call, an avid gamer who teaches digital media and animation courses in the College of Design.

"The interest is there. We just need to provide the opportunity. The Innovation Generation grant is a perfect way to do that," Call said.

Anson Call

Students will be invited to form teams of three or more members from different majors. Each team will act as a startup game development company, drawing on their experiences in such areas as art, psychology, marketing, programming and project management to build and sell games. They will focus on games in one of three categories: PC/console, mobile and serious.

"Traditional gamers may want to write their own Xbox 360 game using Microsoft's XNA Game Studio," Johnson said. "Android and iPhone present new opportunities and challenges for those interested in mobile applications. While technically no different, serious games are games that educate or train, which might be more motivating to others."

Beginning in September, interested students will meet with Call, Johnson and other faculty to go over the competition rules and expectations, and participate in workshops on the design, programming and business aspects of the contest. Other communication will take place via the competition website, which will be online by September.

Call and Johnson anticipate that students will focus on research and team building in the fall, while teams will actually develop their games during the spring. They will then present their work to a panel of game developers from the industry. Winners will be selected and cash prizes awarded to the top three entries in each category.

The competition will be announced to students at the beginning of fall semester via publications such as the Iowa State Daily and Toons, as well as learning communities and other campus networks.

"We're excited because we see such great potential for this campus to do game design in a collaborative way," Call said.

The Motorola Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola. The foundation focuses its funding on education, especially science, technology, engineering and math programming. Since 2007, more than $20.5 million has been awarded to STEM programs through Innovation Generation funding. For more information, visit