Choffin Interactive App and Game Design

Choffin Students Learning Careers in the Metaverse

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A new program at Choffin Career and Technical Center is preparing students for careers in the rapidly growing virtual reality and game development fields.

The Interactive App and Game Design course is in its second year at the school. Educators and students showed off what they are learning at an open house on Thursday. The classroom has dozens of computer stations, and a separate lab for creating and testing animation and games.

The course “marries IT into the graphic arts, with an emphasis on the augmented reality and virtual reality settings, as well as game design,” said Mike Saville, director of Choffin.

Students graduate with a wide array of skills that could be used as gateways into whichever niche they choose for specialization – coding, visual arts, movies, commercials, or metaverse development.

“They will leave here with a portfolio [of their projects] that they can take to college or a school,” Saville said.

Donald Hileman teaches the Interactive App and Game Design course at Choffin Career Center. The course has 14 seniors.  

There are 14 seniors in the course, which is taught by Donald Hileman. The students, he said, are using new technology to learn skills that will allow them to create content.

“I lot of it is augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR),” Hileman said. “They create stuff and test it on a virtual reality headset.”

Metaverse technology allows users to remotely experience a live event, such as a sporting event or a concert.

“It’s the future,” Hileman said. “My students are learning how to create, program, make artwork, sound, all of that. They are meta developers when they leave our building.”

While VR and AR technology is spreading to multiple industries, those who are employed in the industry can work remotely from any location, including Youngstown.

“It’s a unique industry,” Hileman said. “The world is their job market. They can work for companies anywhere in the world.”

Most of the students were drawn to the class by their love of gaming and a desire to create games. But the skills they acquire translate into many related fields, including animation and virtual reality.

The students use Unreal Engine virtual reality software, which is common in the industry.

“It’s now used for architectural visualization,” Hileman said. “You can put on a VR headset and ‘walk through’ a building before it is built.” The automobile industry is also using it to design cars, and the Disney series “The Mandalorian” uses Unreal Engine “to create the 3D worlds on the show,” Hileman said.

Aymon Harris, a student in the course, said he has played video games for years and wanted to learn how they are put together. The class, he said, “gives a broad view of the whole scene.”

His classmate Tyler Paris said most students want to go into game design after they graduate. While the course teaches everything from coding to animation, students eventually have to settle on a niche. “You focus on one thing,” Paris said. “Everyone has a specialty. I’m leaning toward 3D modeling.”

Justin Clark, another graduating senior in the course, said he plans to stick with the field. After graduating, he wants to study programming at a college or secondary school.

Pictured at top: Tyler Paris, Aymon Harrison and Justin Clark in the computer lab at Choffin. The students are seniors taking the Interactive App and Game Design course.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.