How 3d Game Programming can Benefit the TeraGrid
Kris Stewart, Computer
Science Department, San Diego State University
Several in high performance computing acknowledge that we are “indebted to the gamers" for pushing the envelope on processor speed, graphics resolution and rendering capabilities of the PC hardware that the HPC community uses to build systems. This talk presents the upper division, university curriculum that has been developed over three years of teaching a topics class that engages our current "raised digital" undergraduates to demonstrate their creativity through programming a game that can be used in alternate situations. This has been deployed in a high school physics course to demonstrate "Projectile Motion under Magnetic Force" and we propose that a game can be effectively used to promote HPC and the TeraGrid.
At San Diego State University, a grant for “Engaging People in Cyberinfrastructure (EPIC)”  from the National Science Foundation, supported development of projects to explore how the commercial Game Engines might be used to support Science Education. Our effort resulted in a collaboration with the Visualization Services group at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), led by Steve Cutchin, convincing us that the Torque Game Engine (TGE)  would be an appropriate cross-platform game development technology. The pricing from the maker, GarageGames of Eugene OR, was also attractive, initially $100 / seat for a license, access to full source code and membership in a vibrant user community that had been growing since 2000. The project is hosted on the SDSC Game Grid , where you can download the high school game called “The Physics Game”, as well as SDSC’s Science Exploratorium, the Astronomy Module flying in space, Stonehenge as it looks today, Stonehenge reconstructed, Stonehenge at night and an Exploration to Antarctica,
EPIC funding provided the
opportunity to collaborate with two high school science teachers at
Meetings with the Mr. Hal
Cox of Hoover High, our student game-programmers and the author resulted in a
model that used an over-sized C-Magnet to represent the Magnetic Force. The goal would be to fire a projectile at a
target on the opposite side of the magnet, compensating for the direction of
the force shown above. The undergraduates benefited from the opportunity to
develop for a “client” away from campus and learned a valuable lesson to view
from the eyes of the client and change their terminology of “First Person
Shooter” (FPS, the standard term in the industry) to “First Person Point of
View”, showing respect for the 1999 tragedy at
Balancing the influences on one’s own campus with the vast professional world behind, two individuals whose work has greatly influenced the author need to be mentioned: John Seely Brown and Jean M. Twenge.
John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas  recently described the impact of today’s multiplayer games as establishing five key attributes of the gamer disposition:
They are bottom-line oriented
They understand the power of diversity
They thrive on change
They see learning as fun
They marinate on the “edge”
Based on teaching 3d Game Programming for three years now, this describes the attributes in our current SDSU undergraduates and faculty continue to look for ways to capitalize on these traits.
3.1.2 Growing Up Digital (March/April 2000)
Brown’s article “Growing Up Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education and
the Ways People Learn”  has a profound impact on this author. January 18, 2005, Dr. Brown was invited to
Key points learned from Dr. Brown are to learn to capitalize on our students’ creativity by honoring the vernacular of this “multimedia-literate” generation. We need to ensure we communicate complexity in a simple fashion and, by this example, encourage our students to develop this skill. Their future workplace is likely to have them working in multidisciplinary teams and their individual expertise will need to be communicated, and valued, by other team members whose expertise may well be deep, but specialized to another skill set and vocabulary. Brown also stressed the benefit of “learning in situ”, modeling the team approach for development and critique within our classrooms. The SDSU 3d game programming course benefits from being scheduled in our Learning Research Studio  which has tables seating 6 students, wirelessly connected PC notebook or tablet computers for each student checked out at each class meeting, two projector screens and an interactive, touch-sensitive whiteboard that can be easily configured to take input from the instructor’s console or, using the remote-video/audio feed at each of the student tables, from a student’s notebook computer. This models MIT’s architecture studio promoted by Dr. Brown where all work is done in public with many opportunities for critique and collaboration.
of Psychology at
Consider these findings and compare with the thoughts of John Seely Bown, especially from Section 3.1 on “Game Disposition”.
There is a growing recognition in the field that Game Programming can be targeted to serve as a large example of object-oriented programming and used as a basis for teaching a course in Software Engineering, a required course at San Diego State Univeristy for all CS majors. There is even textbook support for such curriculum  and colleagues have curricula in place.
The student Learning Outcomes are
· Students gain the understanding of the large, complex software environment provided by the Game Engine and develop their Object Oriented Programming skills through scripting.
· Students begin to develop the “soft skills” needed in the gaming industry, as expressed by their possible employers such as Electronic Arts (EA), Microsoft (Xbox360 Games Development Group), Epic Games, and others. These include the ability to describe the software they create in manner that is understandable by a broad audience that may be their future clients. Communication skills are developed through course exercises and assignments.
· Students gain the understanding of how to effectively work as a member of a group to create a software product.
· Students learn the capabilities and responsibilities of using the campus computer network and computer labs.
· Students learn to value the point of view of others by developing sensitivity to how other view their work. Examples of how computer games are used in education are explored.
TeraGrid provides a capability for networked games that might challenge many campus firewalls and other network policies, but will enhance the engagement of individuals in far-flung geographical locations in a common game. This engaging environment can be channelled to build awareness and expertise of the users in skills that promote effective TeraGrid use. Collaboration between the TeraGrid and curriculum developers will benefit all. Lets start now.
author wishes to thank the student programmers, who designed the Physics Game,
Skylar Hayes and John Nguyen. The two
high school teachers who posed our original 3d problems, Robert North and Hal
Cox, showed mastery of their disciplines and provided essential insight into
what might work for their students at
 Engaging People in
 Torque Game Engine, GarageGames, Eugene OR
Game Grid, San Diego Supercomputer
Center (SDSC) http://visservices.sdsc.edu/projects/gamegrid/
 California State Grades Nine Through Twelve – Physics
Science Content Standards
Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas, “The Gamer Disposition”, Harvard Business
Conversation Starter, February 14, 2008
 John Seely Brown, “Growing Up
Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education and the Ways People Learn”,
Change, March/April 2000
 John Seely Brown, “The Future of Education in a Digital Age”, SDSU speech January 18, 2005. Transcript available
 IMSAI 8080 microcomputer, Wikipedia Reference, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMSAI
 Kris Stewart, “The Microcomputer as a Tool in Numerical
Analysis”, ACM SIGNUM Users Group Conference,
 K. Stewart, Master’s Project at SDSU, 1979. Code
archived at NIST through collaboration with David Kahaner. SCRUNCH = Small
Crunch – A Numerical Analysis Library in Basic for the Intel 8080 with Z80
floating point processor computer. (Note, this was prior to the IBM PC based on
the 8086 chipset).
 ITS Learning Research Studio,
 John P.
Flynt and Omar Salen, Software Engineering for Game Developers, Thomson Course