Students take video games to national competition

HOUSTON This is actually the first time any university has had two teams going to the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition, which says a lot about the gaming program at UH.

There are no bad guys, guns or grenades in these video games that appeal to kids and adults alike

Robo Recyclers creator Dan Biediger said, "We've picked out recycling and came up with this idea for a cute little robot that would run around and recycle."

That's right, it's called Robo Recyclers. It's a race between robots to recycle paper, glass, plastics and metals. Each member was assigned different tasks. Alaa did the 3D art, Jesus did sound editing, Dan was the primary code-writer and Arif did the recycling research.

"The programming part is easy for us, but creating 3D worlds and 3D characters is really a challenge," Biediger admitted.

These University of Houston computer science students make up one of two teams headed to the national finals of the Imagine Cup competition. Their task was to dream up a video game that finds a solution to a real-world problem, keeping in mind the United Nations' millennium goals. It just so happens both UH teams came up with very different games about sustaining the environment.

The second team's game is called Anti-Toxin Squad. The characters are UN scientists testing bio-remediation -- a process that converts natural plants and fungi into energy, thus cleaning up the environment. It sounds complicated!

Anti-Toxin Squad creator Paul Diaz said, "I don't expect them to pick up on everything but I what I wanted to do is to open their imagination, to show them the possibilities that exist."

And that is the goal -- to promote a fun, educational game that goes beyond the keyboard.

"If a little kid plays this game and then in 20 years actually invents a recycling robot, that'd be a great thing," Biediger said.

The teams will head to Washington DC this Friday to compete in the national competition. If things go well there, some of them could go on to the world gaming-design competition in Poland.

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