“Do you know what ‘Pong’ is?” it’s a question Bradley University game design students may occasionally hear, but rarely from someone as prominent as a U.S. representative.
On Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D, IL-17) filled several Bradley interactive media students and teachers with several questions (most not belonging to the 1972 Atari arcade game) during her visit to Caterpillar Global Communications Center.
“This is a‘ wonderful ’time to be able to go through this whole department and see what the students are doing, both postgraduate and undergraduate level, right here at Peoria,” Bustos said. “I think it’s remarkable.”
The congresswoman is working to raise $ 8 million in federal funding for a partnership between Bradley, the University of Dayton and the U.S. Air Force, which would equip the military branch with virtual reality software to help train mechanics.
“The Department of Defense wants to find out how [to] use something like virtual reality [or] augmented reality in a practical sense, ”said Bustos. “The fact that the Air Force was looking for Bradley says something about the reputation of Bradley University and this program.”
Interactive department chairman Ethan Ham said the Air Force brought Bradley and Dayton together and the partnership was born from there.
“They’re looking for ways to better maintain their team,” Ham said. “We put our heads together, we put this proposal together and Cheri Bustos has pushed it forward in Congress and we hope to have it funded.”
During his half-day visit, Bustos participated in several instant messaging classes throughout the GCC.
Bustos’ first stop was a user experience class, where the congresswoman equipped virtual reality headphones. The group, including Ham and the president of the university, Stephen Standifird, then headed down the hall to visit a postgraduate game design course.
There, five students detailed their project to design, create, and eventually sell a game. Bustos saw a trailer for the game – which is temporarily called “Project Belo” and features a mushroom venturing into a realm – and said it looked like something she’d like to play herself.
The congresswoman’s visit culminated in an animation lab, where Keelan Rodgers, a senior animation major, demonstrated motion capture technology, similar to the technology used in major animation studios.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Rodgers said. “I can look back and talk to many [graduated] old people, and I can say they are very jealous of how things have grown. Just the fact that we have motion capture is already such a big leap. ”
Rodgers believes the partnership with the Air Force will help the animation department continue sustained growth.
“Put more eyes on Bradley,” Rodgers said. “It brings more support to the program, which also leads to an improvement and better technology for the program as well.”
Bustos is very optimistic about the future of the association and believes that his colleagues in the nation’s capital share that energy.
“There’s no setback on that in Washington, DC, because they see the potential of the program here in Bradley to help the Department of Defense,” Bustos said.