It’s not every day on Penn’s campus that students have the chance to play Guitar Hero, Simon Says and pinball in one room. The Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics 4th Annual Grand Gaming Festival Monday evening gave students to play these games and more — on platforms created by their peers.
With the atmosphere of an arcade, room 205 of the Towne Building was vibrant with snacks and games all around the room, fitting of this year’s theme, the Year of Games. The games were all created by sophomore mechanical engineering majors enrolled in MEAM247 taught by Jonathan Fiene.
Fiene explained that in previous years, the games created by his students were more focused on video game-like graphics. This year, he required the students to design games which utilize the player’s motor skills.
As a regular visitor to the festival, MEAM assistant professor Katherine Kuchenbecker said, “Can you believe these were all created by 19-year-olds?”
According to Fiene, students use their knowledge in class in real-world applications by coding and building the hardware and overall mechanical design of the games from scratch. They worked in about 20 teams of three students each.
The students’ hard work was evident. “We pulled three all-nighters,” said Taeho Lee, an Engineering sophomore in the class who designed the game Laser Skeet Shooting with classmates Justin Yim and Daniel Friedman. They built a shooting game complete with a laser gun and moving photo-sensor target on a bungee cord. “The best part was when we were testing it and it started working. It was 3 a.m. in the morning. We just screamed,” Lee said.
Many students got inspiration for the games from their daily lives. “I got the idea shortly after the Phillies lost to the Cardinals. I wanted to design a game to fill that void in my life,” said Dan LaMorte, a student in the class who designed Baseball Extreme with classmates John Geagea and Samkit Mehta. Baseball Extreme featured two mechanized figurines of a batter and a pitcher from the Royals and Tigers and a strike-out and point system. The player could even control the pitcher’s speed. “The best part is seeing him make a home run,” LaMorte said.
MEAM professor Andrew Jackson, who teaches the same batch of Engineering sophomores in MEAM210, said students learn “the agony of failure” when the games malfunction, but experience the “joys of success” when they do work perfectly.
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