Electropocalypse at The Tech—Saturday April 26


250x250-open-makeThe Tech Museum in San Jose on Saturday April 26 is having an Open Make event on electricity and we’ll be showing our game there. It sounds like a fun day of electricity with a bunch of groups showing off their electrical projects, including the Young Makers who are preparing for the big Maker Faire in San Mateo next month.

Here is more information: http://www.thetech.org/partnership-programs-tech/open-make-tech


Some articles on puzzle design


I’m working on a game to teach basic electronics. It’s hard to come up with electronics puzzles instead of homework problems. I found these articles to be useful in understanding puzzles:

http://www.scottkim.com/thinkinggames/GDC00/bates.html — The art of puzzle design lies in creating an original set of problems and solutions that are appropriate to the story you are telling. Even so, puzzles fall into recognizable categories and it is important to know what they are and when you can use them. Here are some of the categories.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/5901/evaluating_game_mechanics_for_depth.php?print=1 — Former Insomniac designer Mike Stout takes shares a useful rubric for judging the depth of play mechanics, including checks for redundant ones, in this in-depth design article, which contains examples from the Ratchet & Clank series.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/09/20/untold-riches-an-analysis-of-portals-expressive-level-design/ — Hamish Todd’s writes, “Portal has the best-designed first-person puzzles I’ve ever seen. They’re surprising, focused, and concise. They are also designed very perceptively, and we can learn a lot from looking at this perceptiveness. Read on for an analysis of Portal’s level design, and some lessons about what learning from it can do to improve game design.”


Play Long-distance Hangman


I’ve had the pleasure of working on Scoot-n-Doodle for the past few months and you must try it, it’s so much fun.

Scoot-n-doodle is video conferencing plus a drawing pad with games for families. Have you ever tried talking on the phone with your young nephew–a one minute conversation is about all you can hope for. It’s so hard to keep them in one place and there is not really much to talk about. With Scoot-n-doodle, you can play hangman, tag, or other games from your childhood. I’ll often play with my nephew for an hour at a stretch—what a difference between a painful 60 seconds of strained conversation to an hour of fun drawing crazy dragons or games of tic-tac-toe.

If you want to play with your relatives but they are far away, try  Scoot-n-Doodle. It’s part of Google Hangouts so you’ll need a Google Plus account.

-Winston


Transferring Skills from Video Games


from Cultural Framing of Computer/Video Games by Kurt SquireJames Squire has an interesting article on using video games in education:

Cultural Framing of Computer/View Games

He talks about research on using SimCity and Civilization in the classroom, and also brings up Education Arcade project. My take-away is that how the game is used in the classroom is as important as the game itself. Just playing the game may be somewhat educational, but real learning happens when the players discuss the game afterwards, generalize strategies learned in the game to other situations, and identify places where the game is different from reality.


Stratolab now Develops Educational Software


Stratolab’s new business is writing software—tools and games—for learning. We have started working on several projects including a math game and a training simulation for teachers. We have many more ideas too, but first things first.


Stratolab is Closing our Studio


In this era of change, Stratolab is changing too. We are shifting our focus from after-school classes to software. In the new year we will be creating video games that teach. As a result, we are closing our cozy studio. January 31 will be our last class.

Last Chance to Take a Stratolab Class. Call Now. All courses are 30% off in December and January. This is your last chance to experience Stratolab. Tell all your classmates. Email all your friends!


Eric Scott joins Stratolab


Eric Scott is our new Advanced Computer Programming teacher. He runs Dolphin Micro, a web development company, but loves to teach a bit on the side. I have worked with him and he is an outstanding programmer. I’m very happy to have him on our team teaching our Game Programming for Teens course.

By the way, he also has a lot of experience in Marketing and Sales so he is a great consultant for building websites. If you need a website built, we recommend him highly.


Nine Complete Courses Take Flight for Fall


Expect the return of old favorites as well as some exciting, new courses here at Stratolab. For starters, Video Game Programming is available after-school and weekends too. Robotics Jr. (Ages 9 & up) and the more advanced Robotics for Teens (ages 13 & up) is back and refitted with new goals & contests. For all you builders, tinkerers and general gear-heads, DIY Electronics teaches you how to build a mini-music system that will rock your socks off. Returning with new tricks and techniques, our wildly successful 5 C’s of Comic Book Storytelling is bringing heroic justice back to Saturday mornings. Brand new to the line-up is Anime and Animation where you create stop motion films and Japanese style cartoon creations. A new course, Comic Illustration with the renowned artist & teacher John Rapone, covers drawing and illustration to bring any story to life.


Two new Workshops for Summer


For summer 2008, our innovative ensemble of instructors have devised two new courses for the summer. Also we will continue our StratoLounge experiment on weekday afternoons starting the second week of July. For details, see the Courses page.

Comic Storytelling and Animation covers two subjects: the six C’s of comic storytelling, and stop motion animation. The Six C’s of Comic Book Storytelling – the greatest heroes and the vilest villians come together in your own professionally plotted graphic novel. Stop Motion Animation – bring to life your favorite action figures and inanimate objects with voices and sounds effects in this all fun, all action, stop motion animation class.

Electronic Music and Devices covers two subjects: electronic music and Do-It-Yourself electronics. Electronic Music – Compose songs and soundscapes, learn arrangement, production, and special effects. DIY Electronics – One person’s trash is another person’s portable stereo system. Build headphones and other musical gadgets out of things commonly found in the recycling bin!



AMNH Master Robot Builder Awards


Congratulations to JuliaWill, and Eric — winners of the Master Robot Builder award. AMNH’s Robotics Camp studied mechanical engineering, a little computer programming, and learned something about teamwork and communication. What a fun week it was.