Briar Cliff students learn the science behind gaming

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Briar Cliff junior Megan Sherrill, right, discusses video game programming with her instructor, Tom Kleen, assistant professor of computer science. Photo by Dawn Sagert, Sioux City  Journal

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Briar Cliff University junior Megan Sherrill spent a large chunk of her second day of class trying to avoid being gobbled up by space-bound aliens.

Luckily, she's already an old pro at playing "Space Invaders."


“Adding video game programming into the mix four or five years ago has really allowed our department to grow.”

— Tom Kleen, assistant professor of computer science


"See, I didn't die once!" Sherrill said triumphantly as a self-designed "Grumpy Cat" Game Over screen appeared on a laptop computer. "I beat the aliens!"

A graphic design major who dreams of becoming a web developer, Sherrill has already completed her college's Computer Programming I and Computer Programming II, introductory classes in which students learn the basics of programming by recreating old school video games like "Space Invaders," "Tetris" and "Pong."

For Briar Cliff computer science assistant professor Tom Kleen, incorporating video game design into his introductory computer programming classes was a way to increase interest in the major.

"We had a few down years once the Internet and personal computers became more common," he admitted. "Adding video game programming into the mix four or five years ago has really allowed our department to grow."

A computer science professor for more than 30 years, Kleen said his teaching hasn't changed drastically since computer programming started. Whether it applies to a business application or a video game, the process remains the same.

"Programming is all about the details," he maintained. "You can be right 99 percent of time but that remaining one percent can throw everything off."

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Tags: Academics, BCU in the Media, Computer Science