I spent most of Saturday at the New Hampshire TechFest at Windham High School. NH Tech Fest is a Satellite Event of the USA Science and Engineering Festival which was running concurrently on the Mall in Washington, D.C. I understand that Microsoft ad an even larger presence in DC but I was happy to be working in my own backyard as it were. Hundreds of students and their parents came through the exhibit hall to see technology displays by hi-tech companies, universities, high schools and demonstrations from FIRST Robotics teams. There were also talks, workshops and at trebuchet competition . The idea behind the event was to:
interest and excite middle and high school-age students from throughout the New England area about the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) through hands-on exhibits and entertaining presentations.
And from where I say students were excited and were getting interested. I was demoing Kodu, for younger kids, and XNA Game Studio for older kids and getting a lot of interest. Of course it helped that is was in the both next to Harmonex Music Systems. You may have heard of their games Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Beatles? And more! One of their designers came with the new Dance Central and a Kinect device for XBOX 360. Kinect it the new platform that lets you play games without a controller – it follows your body movements. Kinect doesn’t come out for another 10 days or so which means not many people have had a chance to play with it. A lot of people had the chance today though and if the reactions are anything like typical there will be a lot of Kinect and new Xbox 360s being bought over the next couple of months.
So kids waiting for a chance to play Dance Central or who were interested in learning more about game development afterwards were at my booth. It was a lot of fun. Of course many people have no idea how much work goes into a game like Dance Central. I was told that to get the dance moved right the company hired a lot of the best dancers in the Boston area (Harmonex is based in Cambridge MA) and did motion capture on them. Then the animation team went to work to improve on excellence. And boy those animated dancers sure look real.
So while not everyone is going to go create the next great Xbox game even young people can get a start in game development with Kodu. I talked to several parents who like the idea of encouraging their children to move beyond playing games into getting creative making games using Kodu or XNA. I talked to a couple of teachers with similar ideas. Kodu looks good to a number of teachers to build interest and create some motivation with older special needs students as well. There are a lot of possibilities.
So I had a great time at NH Tech Fest. I hope some people saw some interesting and exiting ideas at my booth. I hope they learned some things at many of the exhibits. I have to say I learned some things. So all in all a great day.