I have taught ETC multidisciplinary project courses (36 units per course) each semester since Fall 2008, with typically 4-6 students per course. The ETC curriculum centers on these studio project courses in which students learn how to collaborate, experiment, and iterate solutions, most times for external sponsors/clients. Links below take you to the students' ETC project websites (with link images created by the students as well).
August Wilson Cycle, Fall 2020
The August Wilson Cycle team created an exploration game with 2D scenes and a 3D augmented reality map that helped players learn more about, as well as connect with, the people and culture found in August Wilson’s works. August Wilson wrote nine famous plays taking place in Pittsburgh's Hill District in different decades of the 20th century. The developed app allows one to visit the Hill in two of those decades.
August Wilson House; taught with Ralph Vituccio
AI Playtesting, Fall 2020
The AI Playtesting team used reinforcement learning AI agents to solve card game balance for the "Slay the Spire" popular card game. They developed a three step approach of (1) training the AI agent using deep reinforcement learning algorithms, (2) having the AI agent play against itself repeatedly to generate large amounts of data, and (3) using the generated statistics to present information to a designer for identifying imbalance and updating the rules, card, and deck as needed. Details are at the team's documentation website.
Student-pitch project; taught with Scott Stevens
Voicers, Fall 2020
The Voicers team created an educational and promotional webpage to bring broader understanding to the public on black girls’ lived experiences. The page combined interactive story elements, graphs, a short game, videos, and an ending survey to educate the audience about such experiences and the BGEA client.
Black Girls Equity Alliance (BGEA); taught with Ricardo Washington
Giant Combat, Spring 2020
The Giant Combat team investigated how melee combat in Virtual Reality against a large-scale enemy can feel good. It built prototypes utilizing the Unreal game engine and Valve Index hardware, aiming to create experiences that make the player feel both powerful and small. The project website showcases prototype playthroughs and walks through lessons learned in its blog posts.
Student-pitch project; taught with Ricardo Washington
Neo Security Lab, Spring 2020
The Neo Security Lab team, in cooperation with the CERT Division of the Software Engineering Institute, created a web-based story and sequence of minigames encompassing a series of tasks that test its players’ degree of trust for AI systems. The experience was designed to entertain the player, while also collecting their choices to help with AI decision-making interface research in the future. Rotem Guttman will direct an SEI effort to expand on the students' work and finish the full experience with credible tasks. The project website includes a link to a minigame-only version where you can entertain yourself with progressively generated puzzles.
Software Engineering Institute at CMU (Rotem Guttman)
Techtile, Fall 2019
The Techtile team designed and built an interactive experience that merges technology with tactile play. They used Arduinos and RFID tags to control infinity mirror light effects in cubbyholes arranged in a display box fostering curiosity and encouraging investigation. They playtested with dozens of children throughout the semester, discovering the importance of onboarding, hinting/scaffolding, and surprising through visual rewards available with their system. As of December 2019, their work is installed at the MuseumLab, part of the Pittsburgh Children's Museum.
Student-pitch project; taught with Chris Klug
Fortitude, Spring 2019
The Fortitude team built an Android/iOS game application "BROKE: The Game" inspired from the existing board game "The Poverty Spiral" created by Dana Gold. The Poverty Spiral is a simulation for experiencing the challenges of making tough decisions when faced with few resources and competing priorities, to get a deeper understanding of living in poverty. The game is designed for 4-6 players and the goal is to reach and maintain Financial Stability before you run out of cards and choices. Each choice has a financial impact which makes the player experience the stress of how making the "right" decision is not always the best choice to get you out of poverty. The produced app keeps the same impact as the board game, but makes it more accessible in a digital form, promoting empathy for people living in poverty. Add-ons and app store links are at brokethegame.com.
Dana Gold; taught with Jessica Hammer
Another Alice Adventure, Spring 2019
The Another Alice Adventure team produced a 2D adventure game creation tool for people with little game design experience. Specifically, the team created a puzzle design system with state changes, verbs, and backward thinking; a game creation cross-platform application for Windows, Linux and OS X; a series of tutorials and text instructions; and detailed documentation. See the team's repository on GitHub, including this v. 1.0 release
CMU Alice Project (Eric Brown, Director); taught with Dave Culyba
Isetta Engine, Fall 2018
The Isetta Engine team built a new game engine from the ground up. Every step of the way they documented their progress through a dedicated blog in order to demystify the process. By recording their hands-on journey and conducting interviews with industry professionals, they are providing a valuable resource for programmers finding their way in game engine development, complete with the code repository. See isetta.io for a compendium of topics and more details. See also Behind the Black Box: Sessions with Game Engine Programmers edited by the students on this project.
Student-pitch project; taught with Ruth Comley
BotLab, Fall 2018
BotLab worked with the National Robotics League (NRL), a program in which high school students design and build remote controlled combat robots, or “Bots”. The team created a tablet-based augmented reality (AR) experience that parallels the process of researching, building, and battling Bots. This AR experience serves as an introduction to the NRL program.
National Robotics League; taught with John Dessler
Prism, Spring 2018
Prism helps neurotypical people to empathize with those on the autism spectrum. Working initially with 3rd and 4th graders at the Beech Bottom Primary School in Brooke County, West Virginia, the team created a forest game (titled "Prism", also available as an iOS and Android app). The game is designed to be played by children, and then a follow-up discussion run with a moderator (teacher) to connect the forest animals to autism topics; see the Prism project website (Teacher Resources) for the discussion guide and more details. See also a Serious Games conference paper about the project. Prism was awarded the Gold Medal for student work at the 2018 International Serious Play Awards.
Beech Bottom Primary School (via foundation funding); taught with Scott Stevens
NeuroAct, Spring 2018
NeuroAct created a number of demonstration prototypes and documented progress in working with a neural-interface armband that uses Electromyography (EMG) to measure the electrical activities produced by skeletal muscles. Three experiences of note were a snowboarding game (using continuous gestures for steering), a cake-making game (using continuous squeeze force for input), and an interactive music experience using an amalgam of technologies.
Client CTRL-labs; taught with Heather Kelley
CryptoKnight, Spring 2018
CryptoKnight worked with Carnegie Mellon University's CyLab and CMU's Hacking Team the Plaid Parliament of Pawning with respect to picoCTF 2018, a cyber security competition. The team produced a robot world game where missions introduce hacking concepts and hopefully keep picoCTF participants interested in the competition longer, completing more questions. Full integration with picoCTF 2018 and that competition will be run after the project concludes its work on the game.
Client Carnegie Mellon University CyLab; taught with Shirley Saldamarco
Alice's Adventure, Spring 2018
Alice's Adventure created a 2D Adventure Game Maker for teenagers. I was not an instructor for this project: Ruth Comley and Dave Culyba were. However, I made a vulture experience that some at the ETC asked to see. For the curious, here is my vulture experience built with this project's game maker. The team notes the output works best in Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox.
Flower Power, Fall 2017
Flower Power worked with Steenrod Elementary School, Wheeling, WV to create a game to help teach 4th and 5th grade students about recycling. The team created a networked iPad game about sorting and recycling for 4-16 players, played across 4 iPads, that sat in the center of a lesson plan about how to be more sustainable in everyday life. The game, Trash Traders, has each iPad become a recycling center at which trash of that center’s specific type - paper, plastic, metal, or glass - can be turned into a processed material that can be used to help create green products for the city and lower pollution. Players need to cooperate across centers to succeed.
Client Steenrod Elementary School (via foundation funding); taught with John Dessler
Mocking Birds, Spring 2017
Mocking Birds created an interactive HTML5 web experience dealing with racism. Collaborating with students and administrators from the main campus of Carnegie Mellon University, the students created an interactive video experience, Mind Field, which raises awareness to more subtle forms of racism and their impacts. Players are able to discover different points of view affected by the diverse backgrounds of the university's student body, learning about microaggression and stereotype threat in their explorations. Mind Field is a free online experience targetting undergraduates that takes about 15-20 minutes.
Client Carnegie Mellon University; taught with Ralph Vituccio
ArithMagic, Spring 2017
ArithMagic created a math-based educational iPad app: Robo Repair: Addition and Subtraction. This app focuses on practice of addition and subtraction exercises for kindergarten to second grade students. The various robots in the game are meant to boost confidence and provide motivation. The game is instrumented with digital manipulatives in the form of bolts on numerals to facilitate counting, with regrouping shown as well to scaffold the learning to higher order mechanics of tens/ones manipulations. At project completion date, the app was available for free download: Robo Repair: Addition and Subtraction on App Store (iPad).
Client Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit 1 Educational Campus at East Franklin; taught with Shirley Saldamarco
Fanfare, Spring 2017
Fanfare explored the use of handheld mobile technology in a sports venue that complements the game and enhances the fans' experience in the stadium in innovative ways. After initial explorations the student team settled on baseball, and created three prototype experiences: a between innings "connect the dots" group experience with broad appeal, a prediction game for avid fans and those that like to compete for high scores, and a collection game for more casual fans motivated by a collection mechanic. Multiple playtests informed the iterative development of these three experiences.
Client Verizon; taught with Scott Stevens
Cozplay, Fall 2016
Cozplay worked with Anki to design and develop games for the newly released Cozmo consumer robot. Over the course of the semester, the team experimented with a variety of game concepts in order to hone in on those most suited to this cutting edge robotic companion. At project completion date, 18 experiences were documented in the Cozmo SDK Forum: see results from a Forum search on "cozplay" for more details.
Client Anki; taught with Brenda Harger
OnTrack, Spring 2016
OnTrack worked with representatives of the United States of America Track and Field Foundation (USATFF) to develop Run with US!, an app promoting track and field as well as general fitness. The goal of this project was to create a high-energy, interactive track and field game that enables kids of all ages to compete in various track and field events against/with current Olympic athletes as well as their peers. At project completion date, the app was available for free download: Run with US! on Google Play and Run with US! on App Store (both iPhone and iPad).
Client USATFF; taught with Shirley Yee
True North, Spring 2016
True North created A Fine Line, an interactive experience for students at Carnegie Mellon. It addresses academic integrity, on and beyond campus life. In partnership with students and administrators on main campus, the ETC student developers aimed to create a tool for the university to educate and speak to both the practical and moral implications of academic integrity. Presented in the form of a web-based, illustrated world, the experience gives players the ability to navigate the story, and make impactful decisions within it. It creates an environment where students confront true-to-life scenarios involving academic integrity, and reflect on how they would navigate these challenges in real life.
Client Carnegie Mellon University; taught with Ralph Vituccio
ArchiTek, Spring 2016
ArchiTek produced a story-driven online experience centered on map design exercises to be used in conjunction with a GIS class taught by Prof. Kristen Kurland at Carnegie Mellon University. Prof. Kurland sought an experience more interesting to students than just text questions, but also with remediation to help students to appreciate the finer points of map design and improve their learning of the topic. The experience is available on the project website, and will be tested in future offerings of Prof. Kurland's courses.
Client Kristen Kurland, Carnegie Mellon University
Inksmith, Fall 2015
Inksmith worked on translating pre-reader children's storybooks from paper to touch screen. Rather than keeping to fixed format e-books that simply mimic the static page-flipping ability of paper storybooks, Inksmith implemented seamless transitions over lines of the story, incorporated game elements into various events of the plot, and created sequences of scenes driven entirely by child interaction.
Client Pixure Books Publishing; taught with John Dessler
Lotter-E, Fall 2015
Lotter-e developed an Android game in the Unity Engine, Air Sweeper, incorporating transformational game elements to appeal to a new generation of players. Lotter-e researched what millennials look for in a game and in a social cause, and developed a game experience that could raise money, raise awareness, and encourage players to create changes in their own life.
Client National Association of State and Provincial Lotteries; taught with Drew Davidson
Fear and Freedom, Spring 2015
Fear and Freedom produced the Unity game Jayu (meaning liberty/freedom in Korean). North Koreans are portrayed as victims of propaganda, rather than strong individuals living within the regime. Jayu is about living in a small North Korean town near the border of China. The player experiences the unusual regulations of North Korea, and learns how people confront or circumvent these restrictions. The game portrays North Korean life realistically, excluding the censorship of North Korea and the patronization of foreign media.
Student-pitch project; taught with Brenda Harger
Legato, Spring 2015
Legato was a large student team working with another student team located in Redwood City, CA. They jointly created a connected game experience: handheld device interaction along with common large screen (e.g., television). Legato targeted players who don't fall in the category of "core gamers" through simple mechanics that allow for an easy-to-learn and fun experience for the whole family in a relaxed living room setting. They developed Jelly Pirates in Space.
Client Electronic Arts; taught with Salvador Barrera
Stratos, Spring 2015
Stratos worked toward a mobile app to support health education and socialization of children with asthma. Its audience is children ages 7-11 and their parents or caregivers from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The app will help such children and parents understand they can live life normally such as attend school regularly, play sports, and socialize. The client is a part of the Allegheny Health Network's STARS /CAReS* projects which aim to determine the prevalence of asthma in this region as well as treat and educate asthmatics.
Client Allegheny Singer Research Institute/Disruptive Health Technology Institute; taught with Shirley Yee
Y.E.T.I., Fall 2014
Y.E.T.I. (Youth Experience Tundra Initiative) created an educational game transporting its players to the arctic tundra. YETI worked with Mountainview Elementary School (Morgantown, WV) to give its students an immersive experience to make them feel as if they are encountering the biome firsthand and familiarize them with the area's ecosystem. The goal is to give players a feeling of discovery, a sense of the types of life inhabiting this unique biome. The game should not only excite the players but also encourage them to explore and find out more about this amazing habitat. The students (via Xuyan Ke) released Arctic Stars: The Far North as a free app in 2014.
Client Mountainview Elementary School (via foundation funding); taught with Jessica Trybus
Bowtie, Spring 2014
Bowtie worked in collaboration with CMU's Personal Robotics Laboratory to help fulfill HERB (Home Exploring Robotic Butler) the robot's dream of becoming an actor. The Bowtie team worked toward an interface that enables his operators to manipulate various parameters of HERB's movement in real time to improvise and fine-tune his dramatic performance. The team created animations illustrating subtle changes in body language.
Client Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute; taught with Shirley Saldamarco
Imagica, Spring 2014
Imagica aimed to bring in a whole new dimension to classroom learning in creating interactive and immersive experiences for the students of Mountainview Elementary School (Morgantown, WV), supporting collaborative learning about the amazing world biomes. The team created an aquatic experience to introduce the children to the wonders of coral reefs, giving the students a sense of touch and feel, transporting them into the virtual world of aquatic biomes. The students (via Imagica) released Hello Ocean as a free app in 2014.
Client Mountainview Elementary School (via foundation funding); taught with Jessica Trybus
Transcendence, Spring 2014
Transcendence augmented Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) with the creation of a mobile game that teaches traumatized children about the cognitive triangle of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well as how to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Traumatic experiences can lead to recurring negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in children. Child psychologists in the Allegheny Health Network address this problem through TF-CBT. The team's work led to the release of the app TF-CBT Triangle of Life by Allegheny Health Network in 2014.
Client Allegheny Singer Research Institute/Disruptive Health Technology Institute; taught with Scott Stevens
GameGrid, Fall 2013
GameGrid worked with Creative Labs at Indiana University to promote system thinking design through an educational game for upper elementary and middle school youth. They developed Water+, an educational game helping children gain understanding about how systems work and encouraging creative expressions of colored water in 3D pipes. This game was taken to commercialization and released as an App Store app, Water Bears by Schell Games in 2015.
Client Creative Labs at Indiana University; taught with Salvador Barrera
PlayStation Ignite, Fall 2013
PlayStation Ignite worked with Sony Computer Entertainment to produce five prototypes of innovative new game ideas over the course of the semester. The students had only three weeks to develop each prototype from conception to realization. The goal of this project was to discover new and interesting ways to think about games, be it through character, story, and mechanics, as well as documenting the development process as it relates to rapid game design and implementation.
Client Sony Entertainment Corp. of America; taught with Dave Culyba
CardioActive, Spring 2013
CardioActive produced an exergame, a unique yet fun and rigorous game promoting exercise. This game, Webz of War is deployed in a demonstration center by TATRC, who is researching exercise games that people will actually use and want to keep using.
Client Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center
Impact!, Spring 2013
Impact! was a project working towards inspiring young minds to pursue science and engineering as a career. Initiated by DARPA, this is a multi-year project working in conjunction with many different institutions and organizations. The end product will be a series of multiplatform games for Pre-K to third graders that inspire interest and teach basic concepts in the field of science. This team created the HTML5 game Helios.
Client DARPA ENGAGE; taught with Scott Stevens
neuraltone, Spring 2013
neuraltone worked with Dr. Lori Holt of the Center for Neural Basis of Cognition. Dr. Holt is conducting research about how the brain categorizes complex audio patterns and how that process relates to perceiving linguistic sound categories. A simple video game, developed in-house, can be used to train players to better recognize different sound categories far more effectively than traditional explicit feedback-based training. This project created a new game with which to conduct this training research, a game with greater engagement, while retaining the effect of implicit sound categorization learning that occurred in the original game.
Client Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition
Older ETC projects, which can be looked up to various degrees of success in the ETC website under past projects, that were taught by Mike Christel include:
For further information, contact Mike Christel. This page last modified Jan. 4, 2021.