‘I couldn’t believe it’

PUHI — The Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School teacher and the student team could not believe their entry won the Gamestar Mechanic Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Game Design Challenge.

“I didn’t think we would make it,” said Kukahiakea Brun, a CKMS eighth-grade student. “When we submitted our game, we were already two days past the deadline. When we got the email telling us we won, I couldn’t believe it.”

Brun was joined by seventh-grade students Yongkang Lin and Trinity Kerwin in creating the video game that won the middle school division challenge, which drew more than 2,000 entries from middle school student teams across the nation.

“This is a pretty big deal,” said Eric Treager, CKMS teacher who worked with the students in the exploratory program. “Gamestar Mechanic is a big organization and sponsors a lot of contests. This Cleveland Metroparks Zoo contest was one of the bigger contests with categories for all different U.S.-based school levels in both individual and teams for students in grades six through 12. And they had good prizes.”

For their effort, the students each earn an iPad Air, cases, and a lifetime membership to Gamestar Mechanic.

“This means we have an account with Gamestar for the rest of our lives,” Lin said. “I have an iPad right now, but the iPad Air is lighter, and I’m excited.”

Treager said the exploratory program started out as a means to enhance students’ creative writing. It grew into an enrichment program with students developing technical skills that he said will carry them into the future.

“The hardest part of the project was writing the storyline,” Brun said. “We had to use the online resources linked to Gamestar Mechanic, and we had to think about how to use the resources to develop the video game.”

Lin said the game is designed to save animals.

“A little child plays the game in the zoo,” Lin said. “While playing the game, the child learns about how to care for the different animals. It wasn’t hard to make, but it was not easy, too.”

While working to develop the program, Brun said they realized they needed three people on the team to be eligible for the challenge.

“It was just Yongkang and myself when we started,” Brun said. “We needed another person, and that’s where Trinity came in.”

Treager said he was impressed at how well the seventh-grade students worked with the eighth-grade student, this team being one of the few who took up the Gamestar Mechanic challenge.

“I’m very proud of them,” Treager said. “These three students took the initiative after I made the announcement, and pretty much went off on their own exploratory path. It was very cool to see them get together and work things through to solutions. They had to be able to critique each other, work together, and definitely learned skills which will ensure them jobs in the future.”

Kerwin said she was in the class and “just wanted to help.”

“They asked if anyone was interested,” Kerwin said. “When I found out what they were working on, I just wanted to help since we all like turtles. When we found out we won, I was happy and shocked. I didn’t know we had won a national title.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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