University of Calgary

Unlocking Skills: The Power of Brain Games

Submitted by alumni on Mon, 10/31/2016 - 21:26.

Unlocking Skills: The Power of Brain Games

Don't scoff. Those gamers holed up in basements might well become tomorrow’s brain surgeons. Research indicates the “training” players receive through video games may provide just the job skills they’ll need.
By Jennifer Allford

Game of Algorithms: Gaming as Teaching Tool

Students in UCalgary’s Schulich School of Engineering are building video games to learn how to develop algorithms, absorb all kinds of technical content and boost their creative thinking.

Electrical and computer engineering students are developing simple games such as designing floor plans to minimize wasted space and figuring out the best way to move through grocery store aisles — efficiencies that are also important for electrical engineers when they design circuits.

Laleh Behjat, associate professor in electrical and computer engineering and Emily Marasco, BSc’11, MSc’13, a PhD student in the department, have redesigned a fourth-year algorithm development class, ENCM507, to incorporate games. Along with other researchers across campus, Beaumie Kim, associate professor at the Werklund School of Education, and Mohammad Moshirpour, BSc’08, BSc09, MSc’11, PhD’16, an instructor in electrical and computer engineering, are studying how building games in class increases student engagement.

“Games are meant to be entertaining, they’re meant to attract people. If students are playing games, let’s turn education into a game,” says Marasco. “Games most certainly boost students’ creativity. I’m always amazed by what they come up with.”

Creativity is essential for engineers, Behjat adds. “Integrating creativity and innovation into technical content will enable engineering students to create innovative designs, tools and techniques that have not been even dreamed of yet. This will lead us into the future with many possibilities and opportunities.”

The students have to program a game that’s based on the algorithms used for designing computer chips and includes scoring and different levels of play. “I am always blown away with how much effort and time these students put in because they want to,” says Marasco.