UH students sweep awards at Microsoft's Imagine Cup

January 3, 2012 3:46:43 PM PST
In today's Hometown Live, we're taking you to the University of Houston Main Campus where titles are being won far from the football field. Think games for the Xbox, cell phone and PC.

The Computer Science department just won first, second and third place in the Microsoft Imagine Cup National Competition and are now heading to the semifinals. And their games aim to solve real world problems.

"So the first thing that happens when you load up the game is it shows you in a random ocean with a command ship right here and an oil spill," said Michael Slater, UH Computer Science major.

It's an Xbox game that one day could aid crews in cleaning up an oil spill.

"The first thing you can do is build boats to help you clean up the oil," Slater said.

"Spillville" is a video game designed by computer science students at U of H, and it's advancing to the semifinals of the Microsoft Imagine National Cup Competition.

"We talked about what are the major problems happening right now. And of course, at the beginning, the oil spill was still a big topic," said Slater.

All the students are enrolled in the Game Development course at U of H, where a team of four must submit a game into competition. The theme is how does technology help solve some of the problems humanity is facing. So even the boats were designed using industry concepts.

"I used those to make most of the models. The others I took from just looking at general boat design," said UH Computer Science major Allison Sherrick.

There were 74,000 contestants and only 12 finalists in game design -- four of which are from U of H and three of those teams placed. All were led and coached by Dr. Chang Yun and Professor Jose Baez-Franceschi.

"It's really tough to get to this point. We only have three and a half months to get everything done," said Baez.

Team Wasabi Ninja created a game for the Windows 7 phone that destroys harmful bacteria in water systems of developing countries. Team Eager Beavers created Hydrobot which aims to restore ocean life destroyed by pollution.

"It is a great honor that we are constantly winning, but it's not just because we have a good program -- but it's also because of the dedication of all the students," said Dr. Yun.

The Computer Science department also won second and third place in 2010.

The teams are now preparing to upgrade their games for the semifinals competition in April.


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