Industry-university partnership gets students building mobile games that educate

By Noah Kravitz

July 14, 2014   Comments

university, tamk, nokia asha, games, education, development process, asha

First year students at Tampere University of Applied Science faced an interesting challenge earlier this year. 100 students were divided into 20 teams and given a “simple” task: Each team was to create a mobile game themed around the topic of health education. The game should be in English, written for Nokia Asha phones and published to Nokia Store. The teams also needed to create a web page and video trailer to promote their apps.

No problem, right? Maybe not for a professional game development house. But for first-years - some of whom had literally just learned to craft a command line program that outputted their name followed by three exclamation points - “!!!” was a long way from a full-fledged app designed to teach vital life skills through gameplay. And besides the game itself, the students also had those promotional websites and videos to worry about (see Rickshaw Ninja trailer below).

But this is exactly the sort of challenge that industry-education partnerships were meant to take on. Take a sampling of students with varying degrees of technical acumen and work/life experience, and let them tackle enterprise-level tasks at breakneck pace. Give them coaching, advice and the proper tools for the job – and throw in a healthy supply of energy drinks - and see what they come up with. It’s on the job training in a university atmosphere.

Nokia Developer provided said coaching, advice and tools, and also prizes for the best three apps. Lucky for us, Tampere University student Silja Partanen chronicled the experience on Nokia Ääni (Note: Use Microsoft Translator to machine-translate to English):

Soon we were ready to start the actual process of creating a game from nothing. It was a journey of trial and error, though sweat, tears, energy drinks and – first and foremost – laughter. We grasped the idea of team work more clearly than ever during those weeks: The graceless prototypes and limping insights we presented to each other were far from perfect. Yet every time someone had something to ask or say, at least a praise for the hard work. Through the far-reaching questions, ideas for further development and innovative comments each of our ugly ducklings managed to transform into swans – or at least learned to fly. One by one, we were able to polish almost every feature of the game to the point where we were satisfied ourselves. In addition to the time we spent in the classroom, Nokia also offered us workshops and lectures. Those events helped us to push our ideas even further.

Silja’s story is an insightful chronicle of the whirlwind journey a group of first-time developers took as they sprinted through a twelve week crash course in software development, game design, client services, marketing, and everything else that comes with building a mobile game. Follow along as Silja and her team fly headlong towards the culminating TAMK Game Fair event: Will they pull together as a team and finish in time? Will technical hurdles, creative challenges and demanding clients prove too much for our fledgling Finnish developers? What will ultimately be revealed on the armada of Nokia Asha 501 and 503s readied for Game Fair?

Check out video trailers for all the games that the teams built.

Try the winning games for yourself by following the links:

Learn more about the project and the winning games on Facebook and watch the trailers for all of the games (Note: Both links to Finnish-language pages).