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DET Program Earns Membership of the Unity Academic Alliance

We are part of an ever-changing, high-tech arena. The world is evolving with technology advancements that seem to develop at a higher rate of speed than ever before. ACU’s Digital Entertainment Technology (DET) program is focused on preparing Christian professionals to enter this competitive industry with all the necessary skills and tools under their belt to be successful in this fast-paced environment. For this reason, the faculty has implemented various training programs for technology students to become familiar with Adobe Software, Premiere Pro, and Unity game engine. The result of these efforts has allowed the DET program to earn top ranking on The Princeton Review’s list of top 50 undergraduate schools to study game design in 2019 for the fourth time. In order to keep the ranking and grow as a cutting-edge program, the SITC faculty and staff are always on the look-out for the best resources to provide to their students. 

One of the training programs that faculty have focused on in the last year is the cross-platform game engine, Unity. According to job market analytics platform, Burning Glass, “Tech professionals who have Unity skills earn over $20,000 more than their peers without Unity skills” and a Unity Developer is ranked #7 on LinkedIn’s list of Top 20 Emerging Jobs. Knowing the value of these skills, the program implemented Unity certifications in DET courses and, as a result, 95% of students in the Game Engines course gained Unity certifications last year. 

In 2018, the cross-platform game engine created the Unity Academic Alliance as an effort to offer higher-education institutions the opportunity to expand their technology programs. Knowing that as a member of the Unity Academic Alliance ACU would be formally recognized as a leader in cutting-edge Unity education, the leaders of the School of Information Technology and Computing decided to jump right into the opportunity. Professor Brian Burton shared his thoughts on the membership by saying, “We felt like it was important to offer these outside certifications because it speaks of the quality of the program and we wanted to be the charter members of the alliance.” 

This membership not only speaks to the quality of the program, but it provides every student with a vast range of opportunities and resources to equip them for the future. Among the many benefits that members receive, Unity has listed the following as the main reasons to gain membership: networking of academic and industry partners, educator professional development, student professional development, formal recognition, support and guidance. This means that students will be able to join Unity’s Global Student Ambassador Program, be part of conferences, student competitions, and gain valuable training that is consistent with the needs of the industry.

With over 15,000 jobs currently open on Indeed.com looking for professionals with Unity skills, this membership will be of great value to students, the department, and community. 

Student Spotlight: Lauren Walker

Lauren Walker (’19)

Information Technology

Lauren Walker is an information technology major from Round Rock, Texas. After calling ACU home for nearly four years now, Lauren will be graduating in May of 2019.

Lauren’s favorite course that she took while at ACU was Web Technologies (IT 225). The class covers a variety of coding languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL and shows how they all work together to make a website. Every week includes a new project that builds on previous material learned. “When you got to the end you felt like you had come so far from where you began,” said Lauren. In addition to the interesting subject matter, Lauren greatly enjoyed the challenge the course presented. The persistent attitude and resilient problem solving that was required to pass the course will stay with her for the rest of her career.

In the summer of 2018, Lauren interned at a small company called Trinsic Technologies in Austin that delivers managed IT services and technical support. Throughout her internship, she worked with a ticketing system, consulting sales, firewall configuration, and data destruction. While her official title was IT Technician and Support, Lauren was also able to see all of the different sides of the company.

 

While at ACU, Lauren is a teacher’s assistant for Dr. Byrd and also tutored for Web Technologies last semester. In her free time, Lauren does freelance video editing and makes promotional videos for law firms, authors and YouTubers. Currently, she is studying to take the Certified Authorization Professional (CAP) certification by (ISC)2 , which she will be taking in March. Lauren also played for ACU’s volleyball team. Off the court, she attended their weekly and monthly chapels, which she said played a big part in growing her faith. Lauren expressed that, in college, there are so many new opportunities that shape and grow you, but the environment at ACU offers unique encounters that nurture your faith. One of her favorite faith-based experiences she had while at ACU was being baptized by one of her favorite professors.

Lauren wants prospective students to know that ACU is unlike any other college you can find. “Not only do you grow your knowledge, but you also grow your faith; it’s a holistic experience,” she shared. “The people here at ACU are amazing, it is more than a college, it’s a community, you will never find another place like it.”

 

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.