Thomas Price found his life’s passion as a middle school student when he tinkered with the programming code to a computer video game.
Now he is planning to make the former hobby his future career. Under the guidance of a faculty mentor, Price, a computer science major, developed an application to assist middle and high school students in building video games on mobile Android devices. In the process, young gamers will be introduced to basic math and physics concepts that Price hopes will encourage them to study STEM subjects— science, technology, engineering and math— in college.
“It’s designed to expose kids to concepts they’ll come across in STEM education,” he explains. “Not teach them, per se, but expose them in a positive light.”
The free application guides users through a process that is light on theory and heavy on fun as they slowly build a world of their own imagination.
Working with students hired using Lumen Prize funding taught Price ways to collaborate with others versed in artistic design. Price said he was able to program the controls for the game so they looked like those used in the classic Super Mario Bros. However, when it came to scenery or character appearance, he sought assistance from those with design expertise.
Price, a native of Chapel Hill, N.C., presented his work in April at the 27th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and was involved in the North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium. He’s taken his enthusiasm for computer programming to graduate school. He is attending N.C. State University and is working toward a doctorate.
“Anything you spend 40 hours a week doing should help people,” he says. “If all you see from your work is a paycheck, you’re doing something wrong.”