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Higley High students win Gilbert SPARK App Game Jam competition


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  • Michelle Reese/ Higley Unified School District

More Than Two Dozen Higley And Williams Field High School Students From Gilbert And Queen Creek Took Part In The 2018 SPARK App Game Jam In September, Organized By The Town Of Gilbert As A Way To Spark Creativity And Imagination Using A Medium Familiar With Today’s Teens: Video Game Apps. The Winning Team Was Made Up Of Seniors Daniel Pickering, Brady Jenkins And Dylan Franzen. Photo Courtesy Higley High School

What will the car look like in the future?

How will humans travel?

What new transportation modes will appear?

More than two dozen Higley and Williams Field High School students from Gilbert and Queen Creek took part in the 2018 SPARK App Game Jam in September, organized by the Town of Gilbert as a way to spark creativity and imagination using a medium familiar with today’s teens: video game apps.

Along with using code to create the games, students learned about the future of transportation, including technologies under development such as futuristic electric vehicles, driverless cars, and other autonomous technology.

But the heart of the two-day event for the students was creating fun gaming apps that incorporated the theme of  technology. Students worked in teams to develop the games, which were judged by adults running the program.

The Dark Knights, a team from Higley High, walked away with two awards – including the Best Game Design by the judges for the advanced category.

“This was super, super difficult to decide. We saw some really, really amazing games. I want all of you to give yourselves a pat on the back and a round of applause. It was absolutely impressive. Thank you everyone for what you did,” said Derek Konofalski, who organizes the event each year for the Town of Gilbert.

The winning team was made up of seniors Daniel Pickering, Brady Jenkins and Dylan Franzen.

“It took lots of hours. Luckily Daniel came up with the idea and it just took a lot of putting together,” Jenkins said.

“We had the bones of the game but then we had to add the meat and make everything pretty,” said Franzen.

“We really just took the idea of invention and transportation to heart … it was super fun, super stressful, but super fun,” Pickering said.

Their game allows users to use different items to create a vehicle that must then deliver a package – water – through different levels.

The students use the Grand Canyon, the desert and downtown Gilbert (completed with a Dutch Bros. coffee) as some of the backgrounds.

All three students completed three years of engineering courses at Higley High. Current engineering teacher C.J. Lane accompanied the students to the event.

“It was a lot of fun, especially to get connected with the group with Williams Field. It was laid back but at the same time intense for the kids who were really into the meat of the games,” Lane said.

Williams Field senior Fernanda Benitez, a member of the school’s robotics club, agreed it was a fun event.

“It was a unique experience seeing hundreds of kids in one room working on code for hours and hours while working on figuring out innovation and invention,” she said. Her team, “Game of Coders” created a game where students had to collect items to create a ship.

“The user had the ability to customize it, as well,” she said.

Both Higley and Williams Field High School offer engineering classes and robotics clubs for students. In addition, the district added software development (AP Computer Science) as a class option this year.

Students at both schools in Gilbert can strive to earn a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) high school diploma by taking engineering, along with advanced science and math courses. More information can be found at www.husd.org/cte.