It’s natural to see student athletes on the court at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena. But on December 16, 2014, it won’t be College players exerting themselves, instead Charleston-area middle and elementary school students will be debuting exercise games they spent the last few months creating through the use of computer programming and other technology.
For one group of students, this means transforming the basketball court into a giant, live game of Pac-Man, complete with timers and electronic sensors. It will happen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (game demonstrations start at 12:15) during the TECHFIT Showcase and the public is encouraged to come and try out the games.
The event is the culmination of months of work organized by College professors (and married couple) Michael and Susan Flynn. The Flynns, along with two professors from Purdue University, were awarded a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to promote student interest in science, technology, engineering and math through the use of exercise and games.
Staring this past summer, the Flynns led training sessions for grade-school teachers. Then these teachers organized after-school clubs for students interested in creating “exergames,” or activities that combine exercise and technology.
“Children love fitness and technology, so it makes sense to combine them,” explains Susan Flynn, a teacher education instructor at the College. “This age group loves games like Dance, Dance Revolution and Wii Fit, so we’re challenging them to create and develop new games that get up to 20 students engaged and moving around.”
Mike Flynn says he has been extremely impressed with the enthusiasm and technological ability demonstrated by local teachers who have led the after-school programs and facilitated student development of the exergames.
“The teachers have done an amazing job,” says Flynn, who also lauded teachers in Indiana who have led a mirror image of the South Carolina TECHFIT program. Both are part of the National Science Foundation grant.
And just as noteworthy, says Flynn, have been the efforts put forth by the students.
“Once you teach them a few programming skills,” he says, “they’re off and running. Pretty soon students are outdoing the teachers.”