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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Activities & Organizations

Two UH teams reach Microsoft’s Imagine Cup US finals


Teams Skyline Studios and Lost Spectrum represented UH, making the university the only one in the nation to have two teams. |  Courtesy of UH.edu

Teams Skyline Studios and Lost Spectrum represented UH, making the university the only one in the nation to have two teams. | Courtesy of UH.edu

This year the UH Interactive Game Development program had two teams that reached the world’s premiere student technology competition, Microsoft’s Imagine Cup U.S. finals.

Teams Skyline Studios and Lost Spectrum represented UH, making the University the only school in the nation to have two teams.

“We have participated in the U.S. Imagine Cup since 2010,” said Chang Yun, research assistant professor and interactive game development instructor in the Department of Computer Science. “Since then we never failed to have multiple finalists each year.”

The program had two of 10 total finalists in 2010, four of 12 in 2011, three of 12 in 2012 and four of 12 in 2013, said Yun.

“This is something that no school has ever done,” Yun said. “No institution other than UH has ever had multiple finalists in any year or even a single finalist in three consecutive years. This demonstrates the strength of the UH gaming program and students who are a part of it.”

In Team Skyline Studios' puzzle-action platform game for mobile devices, "Zipline Hero", the player uses the touch-screen to rescue falling cats and bring them to safety. | Courtesy of UH.edu

In Team Skyline Studios’ puzzle-action platform game for mobile devices, “Zipline Hero”, the player uses the touch-screen to rescue falling cats and bring them to safety. | Courtesy of UH.edu

UH started the gaming program in fall 2007 by offering an inaugural game development course in the computer science program. Yun founded the program along with computer science professors Olin Johnson, Zhigang Deng and Jose Baez.

“We designed the program to equip students to be ready as a game developer in the gaming industry,” Yun said.

“In addition, we focus on teaching the overall game development process to allow the students to learn and experience different roles and responsibilities of each game developer position.”

The competition has categories in the World Citizenship and Innovation and not only game development, said Zach Nguyen, a computer science alumnus.

“Even if you only have an idea of something you want to do, get three of your trusted friends together, form a team and see if you can make something of that idea,” Nguyen said.

“There are so many opportunities that have opened up for me just from being in this competition that if I could do something different in my college career, it would be to participate sooner.”

Nguyen said that although the Imagine Cup is a great experience, Microsoft seemed to be scatterbrained when it came to this year’s competition.

“The deadlines were always changing, but in the end everything was handled really well,” he said. “For the UH class, I’d like for there to be more lectures on subjects that actually are helpful to the students.”

“After a few months we basically used the class time to work in groups, which was great, but I really enjoyed the Extra Credits web series and would love for the class to cover many of the same topics.”

The initial plan in 2007 was to push the new program to be one of the top five gaming programs in Texas, Yun said. The program exceeded the goal by becoming nationally recognized.

“We want UH gaming program to be regarded as one of the top 25 programs in the U.S.,” he said.

“The most challenging part of the program is developing the game in shortage of time,” Yun said. “I expect every student in my class to work 10 to 40 hours a week throughout semesters.”

“I am very proud of this year’s finalists who successfully continue the tradition of UH success in U.S. Imagine Cup.”

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