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Student Spotlight: Donte’ Payne

Donte’ Payne (’19)

Digital Entertainment and Technology

ACU wasn’t his first choice when he was accepted, but after visiting during his senior year of high school, Donte’ Payne, a senior Digital Entertainment Technology major from Killeen, Texas, knew that ACU was the college for him. Donte’ loved the community and liked that the school was the perfect size for his needs. Payne said, “You aren’t just another student on the roll call; the teachers are able to talk to you one on one and really get to know every student.”

Donte’ began his ACU career as a kinesiology major but when he learned about the Digital Entertainment Technology major, he decided to pursue his passion for animation. He is currently working on the first 3D animated film to be entered into ACU’s Film Fest. Animation can seem like a daunting field to enter into, but Donte’ said, “It is okay to go in not knowing anything, that’s what the program is for… [The professors] are here to help you learn and to help you figure out what you love.” When asked what drew him to animation Payne said, “Being able to make someone laugh and tell a story with your drawings, making an impact on people’s lives – it’s just amazing.”

One of Payne’s favorite courses was a special topics course, DET 340: Game Engines, saying, “It provides you with a different aspect of what people look for in gaming … and the different perspectives towards it.” He liked that the class was less of a lecture and more of a conversation between not only the professor but also his peers. Donte’ remarked that some of the most enlightening conversations he has had have been with his fellow classmates.

Since coming to ACU, Payne has been very involved on campus as well as in the department. He works for the Residential Life office, is president of the DET Club, works as a teacher’s assistant for Dr. Brian Burton, and helps throw events for Gamers Guild. Donte’ really enjoys all the chapel options available to the student body such as DET Chapel, Gamers Guild Chapel, and Midnight Worship. Since enrolling at ACU, Donte’ believes that every year, student life on campus gets better and better.

Donte’ is set to graduate this May and is hoping to intern with Pixar but is also exploring master’s degree programs for animation. Want to know more about the DET major or the School of Information Technology and Computing? Click here to learn more.

Q&A with December Graduate, Holt Herndon

Holt Herndon is a senior computer science major from Abilene, Texas. This past summer, Holt had an internship with USAA and will be working for them after graduation. We asked Holt a few questions about his time at ACU. 

 

Q: How has your education and experiences at ACU, especially in your department, prepared you for the future?

A: The experience that prepared me the most was probably my internship. This summer, I interned at USAA in Plano. During my internship, I did Java programming for a test suite. Along with that, I worked along with some of the senior developers on the team to assist in looking into some of the future software that would be used at USAA. I really enjoyed dealing with enterprise-grade software and systems. It was an incredible learning experience for me, and I highly recommend it. My internship also helped me receive an offer for a full-time job which I’ll be starting in January, which definitely helps with preparing a future.

 

Q: What was your favorite class in your department?

A: That’s a tough question. It would be between Operating Systems (CS 356) and Computer Organization (CS 220). I enjoyed both of them for very similar reasons. Both classes got deep into how a computer works in its more primal form. Learning about computers at such a concentrated level helped me understand and learn how to write programs that are much more efficient.

 

Q: Who was your favorite professor and why?

A: James Prather was my favorite professor. He does a great job of explaining things in simple terms, his assignments were very hands-on which helped me learn, and I enjoy being around him.

 

Q: If you could talk to a prospective student considering coming to ACU, why would you tell them to choose ACU?

A: I would tell them to come to ACU for the education they will receive. I really enjoyed my computer science professors. In all my classes, I learned something new and useful that furthered my career in programming. All my professors knew me by name and were always willing to help me achieve my goals, which isn’t something that is guaranteed at other schools.

Christian Game Developers Conference Ties Work and Faith Together

This summer, Rich Tanner, Clinical Professor of Digital Entertainment Technology, attended the Christian Game Developers Conference held yearly in Portland Oregon. Six students from the School of IT and Computing attended with him. The mission of the conference is “bringing salt and light to one of the most influential industries of the 21stcentury”. Tanner spent a little time to tell us more about his experience as an attendee and professor hoping to encourage his students to share their faith through this platform. 

 

 

What is the Christian Game Developers Conference about?

The Christian Game Developers Conference has been going for 17 years, and seems to be growing every year.  It is a conference for Christians in the games industry, whether they are building overtly Christ-centered games or not.  Many participants are utilizing video games, computer games, and even board games and card games to advance the Kingdom.  These games have different purposes.  Some are to strengthen the Body of Christ, being designed for a Christian audience with a common understanding and background.  Others are designed to reach an audience that does not yet know Christ and to pull them into a conversation about Jesus and Christianity.  Still, other Christian games are simply designed as wholesome entertainment for Christian families that do not violate Christian beliefs and morals with the questionable content often found in the industry.  In addition to these endeavors, the conference also serves as a gathering for folks in the larger games industry who also happen to be Christians. The conference often hosts discussion groups and presentations on what it means to be a follower of Christ in an interactive and multimedia career field.  The conference is a place not only for presentations and sharing of ideas and announcements, but for fellowship and fun.  Many projects and collaborations are often formed at the conference by various CGDC attendees.  I personally have never been to any other conference that looks as much like the Body of Christ in action.

 

What were you hoping students would get from attending the conference?

I was hoping for students to network and get engaged!  The collaboration that happens at CGDC is truly something special, and it is my desire to get students plugged into projects and companies that they can be meaningful contributors to.  The DET program has already had a couple of students get connected to both jobs and internships based on connections that were made and strengthened at CGDC.  It was also my hope to have students walk away from the conference and the conversations that happened there with a stronger sense of their purpose in the Kingdom and in the world at large.  I wanted them to be asking themselves what it means to be a Christian who is learning and aspiring to be a game and content creator.

Why should students become involved with this? How do they become involved?

Students can get involved simply by getting involved with the DET program, the DET Club that meets every week, and by being involved with other students who share their passions and ambitions.  Also, connecting with faculty really helps us to help you.  There are many great opportunities that come our way, and we want to see you succeed both in the classroom and beyond!

Mike Wheeler, senior Digital Entertainment Technology major from Plano, Texas attended the conference. He said that his biggest takeaway from the conference was learning how important stage presence is, including appearance, a working presentation, and properly selling your idea or product to the audience. Kolton Burkhalter, senior Digital Entertainment Technology major from Abilene, Texas said that the idea he took away from the conference was that it’s possible to keep one’s Christian values in your work. He said that the conference also influenced him to want to start a business alongside his good friends who share the same interests. Seeing many of the developers at the conference who were self-employed or worked in a small studio has given him the confidence to be a gaming entrepreneur.

Burkhalter said the thing he enjoyed most about the conference was “the selflessness shown by everyone there that sets them apart from an ordinary game developer conference. It was less about professionalism and more about community – everyone was willing to help one another amidst working in different companies. The conference was very welcoming and seemed like a family.”

Are you a DET student who’s interested in attending this conference in the future? To learn more about the Christian Game Developers Conference, click here. To learn more about ACU’s DET Club, click here.

Christian Game Developers Conference Ties Work and Faith Together

This summer, Rich Tanner, Clinical Professor of Digital Entertainment Technology, attended the Christian Game Developers Conference held yearly in Portland Oregon. Six students from the School of IT and Computing attended with him. The mission of the conference is “bringing salt and light to one of the most influential industries of the 21st century”. Tanner spent a little time to tell us more about his experience as an attendee and professor hoping to encourage his students to share their faith through this platform. 

 

 

What is the Christian Game Developers Conference about?

The Christian Game Developers Conference has been going for 17 years, and seems to be growing every year.  It is a conference for Christians in the games industry, whether they are building overtly Christ-centered games or not.  Many participants are utilizing video games, computer games, and even board games and card games to advance the Kingdom.  These games have different purposes.  Some are to strengthen the Body of Christ, being designed for a Christian audience with a common understanding and background.  Others are designed to reach an audience that does not yet know Christ and to pull them into a conversation about Jesus and Christianity.  Still, other Christian games are simply designed as wholesome entertainment for Christian families that do not violate Christian beliefs and morals with the questionable content often found in the industry.  In addition to these endeavors, the conference also serves as a gathering for folks in the larger games industry who also happen to be Christians. The conference often hosts discussion groups and presentations on what it means to be a follower of Christ in an interactive and multimedia career field.  The conference is a place not only for presentations and sharing of ideas and announcements, but for fellowship and fun.  Many projects and collaborations are often formed at the conference by various CGDC attendees.  I personally have never been to any other conference that looks as much like the Body of Christ in action.

What were you hoping students would get from attending the conference?

I was hoping for students to network and get engaged!  The collaboration that happens at CGDC is truly something special, and it is my desire to get students plugged into projects and companies that they can be meaningful contributors to.  The DET program has already had a couple of students get connected to both jobs and internships based on connections that were made and strengthened at CGDC.  It was also my hope to have students walk away from the conference and the conversations that happened there with a stronger sense of their purpose in the Kingdom and in the world at large.  I wanted them to be asking themselves what it means to be a Christian who is learning and aspiring to be a game and content creator.

 

Why should students become involved with this? How do they become involved?

Students can get involved simply by getting involved with the DET program, the DET Club that meets every week, and by being involved with other students who share their passions and ambitions.  Also, connecting with faculty really helps us to help you.  There are many great opportunities that come our way, and we want to see you succeed both in the classroom and beyond!

Mike Wheeler, senior Digital Entertainment Technology major from Plano, Texas attended the conference. He said that his biggest takeaway from the conference was learning how important stage presence is, including appearance, a working presentation, and properly selling your idea or product to the audience. Kolton Burkhalter, senior Digital Entertainment Technology major from Abilene, Texas said that the idea he took away from the conference was that it’s possible to keep one’s Christian values in your work. He said that the conference also influenced him to want to start a business alongside his good friends who share the same interests. Seeing many of the developers at the conference who were self-employed or worked in a small studio has given him the confidence to be a gaming entrepreneur.

Burkhalter said the thing he enjoyed most about the conference was “the selflessness shown by everyone there that sets them apart from an ordinary game developer conference. It was less about professionalism and more about community – everyone was willing to help one another amidst working in different companies. The conference was very welcoming and seemed like a family.”

Are you a DET student who’s interested in attending this conference in the future? To learn more about the Christian Game Developers Conference, click here. To learn more about ACU’s DET Club, click here.

 

Using Ingenuity: ACU Team Wins in Destination Imagination Competition

In May, ACU’s SITC had its first team compete at the Global Finals tournament of Destination Imagination in Knoxville, TN, winning first place in the Maze Craze category at the university level.

Destination Imagination, or DI as its most often referred to, is a gathering of over 8,000 elementary through university aged students from more than 15 countries around the world. Centered on creativity, the event allows student finalists the opportunity to display their inventive solutions in the areas of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), as well as service learning and improvisation. Collin Blanchard, one of the ACU team members who participated, talked to us about the experience.

“DI is essentially, to my understanding, a place to participate in challenges of various types and to grow as a team. I had never heard of DI before, but Korbin Ancell had participated in it for something like 10 years. He told us about it and we decided we could do it at the university level.” Collin went on to explain how the challenge works.

“Each of the levels of competition was pretty similar, especially for us. At each level, we decided to keep our project mostly the same. The part that changed the most was our maze solver, the robot. At the regional level, a last minute change broke the robot entirely, so we had to resort to a remote controlled toy to complete the challenge. At state, our full solution was still not working, so we just controlled our robot with a remote, but at least it wasn’t a toy this time. At global, we had the full solution working, with a camera connected to a raspberry pi and codes that the camera would read to solve the maze and drive the robot for us. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the actual location, the noise from all of the Bluetooth and the glare from a light on our camera meant that we had to resort to driving the robot with a remote again. Our skit stayed the same through all of the levels, aside from missing Isaak at Globals since he started a new job. One last change was the song that we sang during the skit. At regionals, the song was our own lyrics to the tune of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. At State and Globals, it was a completely original song that Virginia Pettit and one of our teammates, Matt, wrote together. The skit told the story of unlikely pirates finding buried treasure and teaching a real pirate that friendship is the greatest treasure of all.”

Collin encourages others to participate in this event. “This was a really fun opportunity. If other students have a group that they get along well with and have an idea for one of the challenges, they should go for it! Even if they don’t win, it is a really good chance to build teamwork and use skills outside of the classroom setting.”

Learn more about Destination Imagination here.