By Travis Highfield Kennesaw State University Magazine (Spring 2018)
Kennesaw State partners with local industry, elementary schools to create educational games
The question comes up from time to time when Jon Preston meets with the parents of prospective students: "What can my child do with a degree in game development?"
Preston, the interim dean of Kennesaw State University's College of Computing and Software Engineering, usually responds by asking the parents to think more broadly about what constitutes a game. Those who graduate from the University with a degree in computer game design and development don't necessarily have to land jobs at entertainment gaming giants like Electronic Arts or Activision, he tells them. They might also apply the technical game development skills they've acquired for traditional companies like Home Depot and Coca-Cola.
"That's what a lot of people think games are - entertainment, and that's O.K. because we all still need an escape from time to time," said Preston, who in 2009 helped establish the game design program at the former Southern Polytechnic State University, now Kennesaw State. "But we saw games evolving over time, and there was a growing need to understand more about game theory and why people are compelled to play. We wanted to recognize that games can be more than shooting things."
As part of that evolution, he said, more industries are looking at games as educational tools. According to technology research group Metaari, game-based learning products reached $3.2 billion in revenue in 2017 alone and are expected to grow more than 20 percent by 2022.
When it comes to training new hires, Preston said, "The efficacy of learning is greatly improved when trainees can do things on their own. But there are certain scenarios that you don't want a new trainee to be involved with the first day on the job. Games are an excellent way to do things in a virtual world that aren't safe to do in the real world."
When Railserve, an Atlanta-based railroad switching company, looked for ways to modernize its 150-page rulebook, the firm turned to Kennesaw State's game development department for help, said, the firms President, Tim Benjamin. The rulebook contains detailed information regarding how employees can ensure safety at each site switch, but Benjamin said new trainees struggled to remember the rules after the company's two-week orientation.
"When an employee comes to work for us, they want to work outside and use creative problem-solving skills to deal with the complexities of moving railcars," he said. "They generally don't like to be indoors reading and taking written tests."
For the last three years, Railserve has worked closely with gaming faculty and students to discuss insufficiencies in its current process. In return, KSU students are creating an interactive virtual environment in which new trainees can act out safety protocols as they would on real-life locomotives, and be scored based on their performance. The simulation is accompanied by a video series in which computer graphics demonstrate the correct and incorrect way to perform various tasks of the rail switching process.
"With this system, we can test them before we release them to the field," Benjamin said. 'We can show them situations from a perspective that is too dangerous to show them in real life, and we can track results to know what individual employees are struggling with."
The project is scheduled for completion this year.
Applications for serious games aren't limited to industry, said Rongkai Guo, an assistant professor of gaming. KSU students
regularly partner with elementary school educators throughout Cobb County to find ways games can be used to engage students with their lesson plans. Guo's Educational and Serious Game Design course, which introduces students to theories behind the gamification of learning instruction, includes a semester-long project during which students pitch and create a working video game for their assigned elementary school classes.
Naomi Beverly, who formerly taught in Park Street Elementary School's K-5 STEM Lab, said gamifying her lesson plan immediately engaged her students, who were able to contribute directly to the development of "The Lily and The Puppy," a game to teach them to identify parts of a plant and how weather, humans and animals cause changes to the environment.
Beverly supplied Kennesaw State game design students with state standards for science education, and worked with them to satisfy those standards and find ways to challenge her students in a virtual environment. In the game, for instance,
children must visit a grocery store to buy supplies for their plant and pet dog. A mini-game inside the store directs the students to collect coins until they have enough money to purchase items. Another game type scatters plant parts around a garden, encouraging students to identify each part and piece the plant back together by dragging them into place.
To boost engagement, Beverly's students were asked to contribute artwork and audio to be incorporated into the game. When possible, KSU students used the drawings submitted by the children in the virtual rendition. The students also played an active role in deciding what kind of game they would like to play.
"The kids have more buy-in because it's something they created rather than something they were forced to do," said Beverly, who now teaches fourth graders at Lockheed Elementary School. "It's a hard sell if they're doing too much reading."
Just a few miles from Kennesaw State's Marietta Campus, the Cobb County Safety Village is exploring new ways to encourage children to practice internet safety at an earlier age. The village is part of a network of comprehensive safety training facilities designed to help residents gain hands-on learning experiences on everything from fire to cross-walk safety.
Director Allison Carter said she was encouraged by what she saw at another safety village in Canada, where police officers use a computer game in which children are asked to divulge personal information, such as their real names and home addresses, in a mock chatroom. At the end of the exercise, officers ask the children what led them to share their information with a stranger and instruct them why its dangerous.
Recently, Carter enlisted the help of KSU students to help her create a game that could be played at the local safety village using input from law enforcement and Cobb County School District prevention specialists. Carter envisions a game similar to the one she saw in Canada in which children will be tempted to share personal information as part of an elaborate lesson plan to teach internet safety.
To challenge the students, KSU's Guo said the game will likely integrate phishing techniques with a pirate theme. In-game characters, for example, might ask the children to verify passwords before they are allowed to board a pirate ship. Instructors will then be able to record how many of them shared their personal passwords. The goal is to have the children demonstrate better judgement when using the internet and avoid situations where they might share sensitive information, he said.
Carter added that children have grown tired of PowerPoints; she wants them to learn by doing. For children to really become comfortable and engaged with the lesson plan, however, they should be on some sort of device. Based on their in-game actions, instructors will be able to walk them through making better decisions.
"It's new. It's fresh. It's nothing like something, we've ever done," Carter said.
As published in the Marietta Daily Journal
Journalist: staff reports
The Cobb County Safety Village recently received a grant as part of Chick-fil-A’s True Inspiration Awards. The Cobb Safety Village was the Southeast region’s runner up and was awarded $15,000 to develop a new internet safety program. The Safety Village was nominated for this award by Zach Thomas, operator of the Chick-fil-A at Macland Crossing.
“We are honored that Zach, the Chick-fil-A Foundation and our community understand and value our mission of building a safer community through hands-on education,” Allison Carter, director of the Cobb Safety Village, said. “Out of 150 organizations that applied for grants this year, we are elated to be one of 22 awarded funds to continue our important work. We will use this grant to develop a new internet safety program tailor-fit to our community’s needs.”
This is the third year the Chick-fil-A Foundation has granted the True Inspiration Awards created to honor the legacy of Chick-fil-A’s late founder, S. Truett Cathy. Before opening voting to customers, foundation staff reviewed applications and selected a list of finalists that demonstrate a commitment to supporting youth and education. More than 76,000 customers voted nationwide and this was the first time people were able to vote for organizations in their communities via a mobile app. More than $1.1 million in grants were awarded to 22 not-for-profit organizations in 16 states.
The Cobb County Safety Village is the most comprehensive and unique safety training environment in the Southeast. Built on an eight-acre site, it is a place where children and adults can gain knowledge through hands-on experiences. This safety education enables our residents to help and protect themselves and others from accidental death, injury and destruction of property.
For more information about the Cobb County Safety Village, visit cobbcounty.org/safetyvillage. For more information about the True Inspiration Awards, visit chick-fil-afoundation.org/news-events/.
As published in the Marietta Daily Journal
Journalist: Dick Yarbrough
I have just visited the Cobb County Safety Village. You have to see it to believe it. I have seen it and I believe it to be one extraordinary facility. The Safety Village is one of only twenty in the nation. I doubt there is one better anywhere.
I toured the facility at the invitation of Allison Carter, currently in her third year as director. The Safety Village sits on eight-acres off Al Bishop Road and includes a 27,500-foot facility with four classrooms for children, two adult classrooms, a multipurpose room and a 127-seat theater.
To the rear of the building is a child-size city with scaled down but functional buildings, street signs, pedestrian crossings, a life-size locomotive and a school bus.
The staff consists of Carter, four full-time fire services personnel, two Cobb County police officers and a couple of administrative assistants.
In 1978, the state mandated fire and life safety training. Cobb County was already ahead of the game. Then-Cobb Fire Chief Dave Hinton had already started an education division in his department. From that grew the current Cobb County Safety Village.
Currently, all second- and fourth-grade students in the Cobb County School District, the City of Marietta schools and all private schools, save one, as well as home schoolers and special needs students come to the Safety Village for safety education. The facility also serves senior citizens through Cobb Senior Services.
A main feature inside the facility is Sparky’s House, an interactive house with a living room, kitchen and bedroom. Sparky’s House has simulated fire and smoke and teaches the youngsters escape methods. (Fall, find a wall and crawl along the floor to the nearest exit.) Does it work? Since 1978, Cobb County’s population has more than doubled but the number of fire-related deaths have been cut almost in half.
Another valuable lesson the kids learn is how to call 911 by cellphone or landline phone and also how to text. The exercise involves talking to an actual 911 operator. Carter cites several examples of where students who had been through such an exercise were able to possibly avert a serious situation.
All fourth-grade students have a session on bullying in the facility’s police classroom, including the different kinds of bullying, be it cyber-bullying, verbal or physical and what students should do when they are bullied.
An important part of the Safety Village is the Safe Kids facility, coordinated by WellStar, which is the only permanent child safety location in Georgia. Last year, Safe Kids averaged over 250 car seat inspections a month, making it among the top five in the nation.
Stepping out of the education building into the interactive village, I felt like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput. (Look it up.) All the buildings revolve around a miniature town square and are built to scale. There is the Cobb EMC building where students learn about electrical safety; the Cobb-Douglas Public Health building with a neat show-and-tell on personal hygiene; There is a Colonial Pipeline building showing youngsters how gas gets from a storage tank and across the country to the automobile gas tank.
In the village is a replica of the city of Kennesaw train station, along with a locomotive, train tracks and cross arms to emphasize pedestrian safety and a school bus to teach the kids about bus safety.
As impressive as the interactive village is, Carter says she plans to see it get even better with the help of the Safety Village’s Foundation and additional sponsors. She wants a grocery store to teach young people about good eating habits in an effort to curb childhood obesity and a Weather Channel-type facility to educate children on what to do during natural disasters.
In my opinion, the Cobb County Safety Village is a bargain. The education staff’s budget is $1.2 million and funded out of the county’s fire fund. The Education Building has a budget of $275,000 and is part of the general fund. The buildings in the interactive village are owned and maintained by the Cobb County Safety Village Foundation. Beyond that, saving a child’s life because of what they learned there is incalculable.
In part because of the good works of the Safety Village, the Insurance Services Office just awarded Cobb County Fire & Emergency Services with its Class 1 rating, the highest rating possible. Why should you care? Many insurance companies use ISO as a factor to determine fire insurance premiums. A Class 1 rating can be good for your pocketbook.
There are a lot of good things happening in Cobb County. Put the Safety Village at the top of the list and thank county manager David Hankerson who has been the driving force behind the effort. Mr. Hankerson should feel proud of what he has done. After having toured the place, I am proud he has done it.
Cobb County Communications Department
What: Tbilisi Minister’s Official Visit to Cobb County
Where: Cobb County Safety Village, 1220 Al Bishop Drive, Marietta
When: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9
|09:30 – 10:30||Meet & Greet at Safety Village|
|09:30 – 10:30||Media Availability at Safety Village|
|10:30 – 12:00||Safety Village tour|
|12:00 – 13:30||Lunch TBD|
|13:30 – 16:00||Police presentation & Ride-a long|
Mr. Giorgi Mghebrishvili, Minister of Internal Affairs
Mr. Archil Talakvadze, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs
Mr. Shalva Khutsishvili, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs
Mr. Salva Kvinikhidze, Director of International Relations, MoIA
Mr. Zviad Turiashivili, Protocol Officer, MoIA
Ms. Tea Pertaia, Public Relations Director, MoIA
Ms. Katleen Canning, FBI LEGATT, US Embassy
Mrs. Tracey Newell, Director, INL Programs, US Embassy
Mrs. Tamar Nasaradize, Program Specialist, INL, US Embassy
Mr. Jason Sandoval, DEA SAIC Istanbul, Turkey
Mr. Mitchell Matthias, DEA, Istanbul, Turkey
Ms. Maia Pirtskhalaishvili, Translator
Mr. Michael Turner, Police Advisor US Embassy
Marietta, GA – Walton Communities showed it commitment to the mission of providing safety and prevention education to all residents of Cobb. In 2013, Walton donated $30,000 to the Cobb County Safety Village and also built a two-story apartment complex that represents their own communities. The first development in the Safety Village’s residential section was unveiled May 16.
“Walton Communities is honored to be involved in the Cobb Safety Village,” Matt Teague, development manager, said. “We place a high priority on education and community involvement and the Safety Village is the perfect blend of these initiatives. Our strong relationships with our vendors made our participation possible and we are grateful for their support.”
“The interactive back portion of the village, run by the Safety Village Foundation, is completely funded by donations,” Allison Carter, safety village coordinator, said. “When community partners such as Walton Communities get involved, 100 percent of their dollars go directly to providing facilities for teaching hands on health, safety and prevention education to our students.”
Cobb Safety Village is a dynamic training environment for families to learn about crime prevention, fire safety, pedestrian safety and disaster preparedness. Small-scale representations of community streets and businesses help interactive learning. Built on an eight-acre site, it is the most comprehensive safety training environment in the region.
Walton Communities is a privately-held company based in Marietta. The company was named “Walton” after the television program, “The Waltons.” The television family represented the kind of tightly knit and traditional community the company strives to develop. Philanthropy and strong community partnerships are vital components of the company’s philosophy.
As published in The Marietta Daily Journal
Staff of the Cobb Safety Education Center will welcome the first students of the school year next week. Fourth grade students from Davis and Addison Elementary will take part in the county's safety education program. Opened in August 2009, the safety education center and safety village have improved the quality and effectiveness of our school children's safety education. Prior to the Safety Village, students in kindergarten, second and fourth grade relied on firefighters visiting their classroom to present safety information. Now, with the addition of the village, students are exposed to far more lifesaving education. The curriculum has expanded to include topics such as: stranger danger, gun safety, home safety, pedestrian safety, bicycle safety, pool and water safety, electrical safety and bus safety. Students' exposure to important information from police officers has increased by 98 percent. The safety education provided at the village also adds to the personal impact on students by providing a "hands-on" experience, which is shown to increase learning and retention of information. One of the most meaningful measurements of the fire and safety education is the number of lives saved. Cobb County began fire safety education in 1978 and, despite our population more than doubling, the number of fire-related deaths have been cut in half.
33 (eight deaths in one structure fire in 2000)
The Cobb Safety Village has also helped increase the efficiency for our safety education instructors. Before the village opened, fire safety personnel had to travel to every Cobb County school and 56 instructors were using overtime to meet safety goals. Now, fewer staffing hours are required and overtime has been reduced by 31 percent. Travel expenses for instructors has also been reduced by about $12,000. One of the most popular features at the safety education center is a scaled-down village for students to apply the new skills they have learned. The mini-village is built and maintained through donations and grants and is overseen by the Safety Village Foundation, a nonprofit organization. In fiscal year 2010, about 20,000 local students completed the program and the program now includes students from the City of Marietta School System, private schools and home school groups.
Colonial Pipeline CEO Tim Felt along with Commissioner Helen Goreham, County Manager David Hankerson, Chief Sam Heaton and Captain Scott Dodson were part of a ribbon cutting ceremony today at the Cobb Safety Village. Colonial Pipeline paid the Safety Village Foundation $25,000 for the site and invested more than $200,000 in the building, which is a replica of a gasoline storage tank. It contains a built-in floor diorama, interactive safety games and an informational video. The site also provides information on underground pipeline safety and "call before you dig" information. This addition to the Safety Village will help enhance school children's safety education. Click here for a video.
MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service continued to help keep local residents safe by making a large contribution to the Cobb Safety Village. The company donated $110,000 to sponsor the theatre in the Safety Village's model-sized village. Company President and CEO Peter Quinones (right) recently visited the village with District One Commissioner Helen Goreham, whose district contains the Safety Village. MetroAtlanta Ambulance was founded in 2001 on the premise that no resident should be denied access to emergency care, rehabilitation or wellness service due to lack of transportation. In 2003, 2004 and 2005, the company was recognized by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce as one of the top five small businesses in the county. In 2006, MetroAtlanta was honored as the Small Business of the Year. In 2007, the company became the only ambulance service in metro Atlanta to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services. The safety village is a child-size representation of Cobb, complete with trees and scaled-down models of operative buildings with signage, streets, traffic lights and homes. The site has four distinct areas, each presenting the opportunity to teach children how to react when faced with fire, crime and disaster emergencies, as well as drug and alcohol awareness and pedestrian safety. Residents can help build a path to a safer future by buying personalized brick pavers to be placed at the village or donating money. For more information on the village or donating, visit cobbcounty.org/safetyvillage.
C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., Inc. showed its support in helping keep Cobb residents safe by donating $50,000 to sponsor the construction of a replica of its building in the Safety Village's model-sized village. Company CEO James Scott (right) recently visited the village with County Manager David Hankerson. C.W. Matthews has received many coveted industry awards, including American Concrete Pavement Association Award for Excellence, Top Georgia Department of Transportation Dollar Volume Awarded Contractor and Georgia Quality Initiative Achievement Award. The safety village is a child-size representation of Cobb, complete with trees and scaled-down models of operative buildings with signage, streets, traffic lights and homes. The site has four distinct areas, each presenting the opportunity to teach children how to react when faced with fire, crime and disaster emergencies, as well as drug and alcohol awareness and pedestrian safety. Residents can help build a path to a safer future by buying personalized brick pavers to be placed at the village or donating money. For more information on the village or donating, visit cobbcounty.org/safetyvillage.
The City of Kennesaw and Kennesaw Police Department recently showed their commitment to keeping local children safe by purchasing two electric cars for road safety education at the Cobb Safety Village. A replica of the old railroad depot in Kennesaw will be constructed and used for railroad safety instruction. The depot should be complete and operational in the spring. The Safety Village is a child-size representation of Cobb, complete with trees and scaled-down models of operative buildings with signage, streets, traffic lights and homes. The site has four distinct areas, each presenting the opportunity to teach children how to react when faced with fire, crime and disaster emergencies, as well as drug and alcohol awareness and pedestrian safety. For more information on the village or donating, visit cobbcounty.org/safetyvillage.
The Cobb Safety Village recently acquired a 1947 locomotive that was donated by Georgia Northeastern Railroad. The train will be used to educate children on railroad track crossings. A school bus will be placed near the tracks to teach children how to safely exit buses in emergencies. The exhibit will be ready by the end of next month. CobbTV has more on this story.
Colonial Pipeline showed its support for safety education in Cobb by recently donating $25,000 to construct a store front in the Safety Village's reduced-scale village. Colonial Pipeline is pleased to become a partner with the Cobb County Safety Village," Sam Whitehead said in a statement. "From my first visit, I saw what a wonderful facility this is and what a great job everyone involved with the village is doing to deliver safety education. Colonial Pipeline Company is an interstate common carrier of petroleum products with offices in the metro Atlanta area. The Safety Village is a child-size representation of Cobb, complete with trees and scaled-down models of operative buildings with signage, streets, traffic lights and homes. The site has four distinct areas, each presenting the opportunity to teach children how to react when faced with fire, crime and disaster emergencies, as well as drug and alcohol awareness and pedestrian safety. For more information on the village or donating, visit cobbcounty.org/safetyvillage.
Cobb Safety Village continues to earn honors and accolades as an innovative and important safety-education and community asset. The National Association of Counties recently awarded the Safety Village its 2010 NACo Achievement Award. The Safety Village was also designated "Best of Category" in the Children and Youth category. This additional recognition highlights the most outstanding model program.
The safety village is a child-size representation of Cobb, complete with trees and scaled-down models of operative buildings with signage, streets, traffic lights and homes. The site has four distinct areas, each presenting the opportunity to teach children how to react when faced with fire, crime and disaster emergencies, as well as drug and alcohol awareness and pedestrian safety. For more information on the village or donating, visit cobbcounty.org/safetyvillage.