TechShop Game Design Challenge (drafted by Mike Depew)

Last week we held our Orientation and Lunch Party for the iFest|TechShop Game Design Challenge. Thanks to everyone for coming out and sharing your ideas! Please see the information below for updates about the Challenge and the Request for Proposal (RFP).

About the iFest|TechShop Game Design Challenge

The TechShop of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences (iSchool) invite you to participate in the iFest|TechShop Game Design Challenge. The challenge: work in teams of three to design and develop an interactive game. As part of the challenge, student teams are required to submit a proposal detailing their game idea and concept. Three student teams will be selected, based on their proposals, to develop working prototypes of their games using the tools and services at TechShop. Those three teams will present their game prototypes at iFest 2015 (Feb. 6).

The team judged to have designed and developed the best game concept and prototype will win a prize of $500 per person.

Proposal Requirements

  • Propose a new game concept or significantly improve/modify an existing game
  • Proposed game must have a narrative or back-story
  • Proposed game must have robotics/physical computing components powered by either Arduino or Hummingbird kits
  • Final prototype must be fabricated and work within the described parameters of the game

Proposals must be submitted by: October 10, 2014

Follow this link for the full RFP.

Advising & Support Workshops

iSchool staff and faculty will be available to answer questions and provide advising to teams during the dates/times listed below. Drop by any of these workshops to brainstorm game ideas and concepts, learn how to use Arduino and Hummingbird kits, and get feedback on your proposals. For additional support from staff and faculty, see the attached RFP.

Proposal Advising & Introduction to Arduino Kits
Friday, September 19: 2:30PM – 4:00PM

Proposal Advising & Introduction to Hummingbird Kits
Friday, September 26: 2:30PM – 4:00PM

Proposal Advising

Friday, October 3: 2:30PM – 4:00PM

All advising and support workshops will be held on the 3rd floor.

Registration Form

If you are interested in participating, please complete the registration form. Please indicate whether or not you have already formed a team to participate in the Game Design Challenge. If you do not have a team, complete the form and we will help you find other students interested in forming a team. If you already have formed a team, all members of your team must complete a separate registration form.

Register for the iFest|TechShop Game Design Challenge

Open-Source Medical Simulator

When I worked for the School of Medicine, I worked quite a bit with medical doctors and educators are experts on medical education and medical simulations. Over the years I’ve seen many simulators, ranging from simple text-based scenarios (kind of like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game to elaborate simulations taking place in Second Life to the extremely expensive (and extremely creepy) mannequin simulators.

The one thing that struck me about the mannequin simulators is how limited they are given the price tag. The less expensive ones are barely more than plastic dolls, and the ones that attempt to emulate human physiology in its entirety are difficult to program and are very finicky.

So… I decided to see if I could build a medical simulator that costs under $300.00. Instead of trying to build the whole mannequin at once, I began to identify learning objectives for medical students and try to build individual organ simulators that would meet these objectives.

I’m currently working on an endoscopy simulator and it’s turning out to be more challenging than I ever expected. I had to learn how to build 3D models, how to manipulate and slice existing models, how to work with 3D printers, CNC routers and vacuum formers.

I first tried to build a stomach and esophagus model by 3D-printing it. However, as much as I love MakerBot Replicator printers, they can only print small items and the actual success rate is only about 60%. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to kick a 3D printer through a wall after a 4-hour print would fail 3.5 hours into the job.






IMAG3276After realizing that I could not successfully print a usable model on a MakerBot, I spoke with several people at Pittsburgh TechShop and they suggested vacuum-forming my models.






I cut a 3D model of human stomach and esophagus from high-density foam and will try to vacuum-form a prototype in a couple of week. If it works, I’ll make a more permanent mold out of MDF or wood. Once the mold is ready, I’ll break out the Arduino!

Building a guitar

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell tells stories of Bill Gates, the Beatles, and many others who became incredibly successful.  He (Gladwell) claims that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become really good at anything – music, painting, programming, flying airplanes.

In theory, 10,000 hours sounds great, but who has the time?

I recently became a member at Pittsburgh TechShop, a fabrication and prototyping studio in Pittsburgh’s Bakery Square.  That place is absolutely amazing – the first time I came in for a tour, I was pretty damn close to jumping up and down in excitement when I saw all the CNCs, milling machines, laser cutters, and 3D printers.

I had a goal in mind when I joined TechShop – I wanted to build a guitar.  Speaking of 10,000 hours of practice, I’m not a very good guitar player.  That being said, I’ve always wanted to own a National steel body guitar.  Unfortunately for me, National guitars cost thousands of dollars, so unless someone wants to make me a really really really expensive gift, I’m pretty much s**t out of luck.  So I decided to build my own.

Steel is a fairly expensive (and difficult) material to play with; it is also very time consuming to prototype anything in metal (unless you have the money to use the very expensive water-jet cutter).  I decided to prototype my guitar in wood, first starting with a small-scale ukulele-sized prototype, and scaling up as I got better with proportions and details.

I modeled my design after Gibson Les Paul, another guitar of my dreams.  I traced a photograph of a Les Paul Studio in Corel Draw and made drawings for Trotec Laser Cutter.  It has no frets, but boasts ukulele tuning pegs, ukulele strings and bass guitar tuning!

Les Paul guitar drawing

My first prototype looked good, and I looked pretty damn good forcing horrible noises out of it.

Playing DIY Guitar

Now my kids have a new toy and I’m moving on to the next prototype.  I already laser-cut templates out of cardboard and will hopefully move on to making the first steel prototype in a few weeks.

I just hope it doesn’t take me 10,000 hours to reach the final destination.