Recently our University was pleased to find that we had been ranked number one in San Diego for Cybersecurity degrees by Universities.com. If you did not already know, Coleman has had the longest running Cybersecurity (formerly Network Security) degree program in San Diego. Since 1963 when we first began our journey as The Automation Institute, our organization has been at the center of technology development and we have graduated many distinguished alumni over our 54 years in Southern California. From Data Processing to Cybersecurity we have come a long way by following the trends and seeing the potential in every student that walks through our door. Our alumni have gone on to work for SPAWAR, Cisco, Kyocera, and many other incredible companies that are the leaders in technology development. With our lifetime Career Services access and small class sizes our students have been able to create lucrative careers in exciting fields. More importantly, they have brought integrity to the Coleman name and we are proud to continue to provide a top Cybersecurity education for San Diego. Our mission statement is “To deliver relevant education that prepares individuals for technology focused careers, while providing an environment where they may develop to their full potential” and we will remain dedicated to that mission long into our future. This is exciting news for our university and we are so happy to share it with our followers and alumni!!
This month we wanted to showcase another of our amazing instructors on our blog, and our spotlight is on Tommy Mitchell. A Game Development instructor with many years of direct experience in the field, Mitchell’s knowledge of the game industry has become a huge advantage for Coleman University students. Having been a fan of gaming since he was six years old, it is more than safe to say that this subject is a passion for him; one that he shares with our students.
We sat down with Tommy to discuss how he got started in Game Development and what it takes to be successful in the industry.
1. How did you get into Game Design and Development?
Well that’s a bit of a long story. I have played video games since I was 6 years old so I’ve always been pretty active with that. I used to play about 2-3 days per week and it just became an obsession. However traditional art became my forte. When I graduated from high school, I had a partial scholarship to Southern Methodist University in Texas for their art program. As I was going through my courses I was approached by a professor who had recently established a game design program on campus called Guild Hall and she wanted me to join. I went through those courses for two years which put me in the pipeline for a game development degree. So I have a traditional art background, but I went from painting canvases to digital art and sculpting.
2. How did you apply your degree after you graduated?
Once I graduated I was called up to work for a small gaming company in Austin Texas called Midway. During that same time I was hoping to pursue more education in game design, so I applied to schools in San Diego that offered higher degrees. Once I had been accepted, my company offered to hire me back once I had finished my education. So I moved to San Diego in the hopes that I would have a job waiting for me back in Texas once I was done. I attended ITT Tech for their Digital Entertainment and Game Design program. I received my bachelors degree, while also doing freelance work. In 2009 I was lucky enough to get an interview with Sony and I was hired on as a game tester. I did game testing for about a year and a half.
3. Wow. So you lived every teenage gamer’s dream then?
A lot of people think that with game testing you’re just constantly testing games and having fun, but it is serious software testing. You have to look for bugs and issues, marking their coordinates in the game, and making sure that you are sending that information to the developers. Your job is to find as many ways as possible to break the game. After a year of testing I was promoted to being a character artist. The first game that I worked on for character design was God of War 3, just small portions of the background design, which was really fun. Then I was put onto the teams for MLB The Show, and Star Hawk. After a couple more promotions I was given a project management role, around 2011 for a game called PS All Stars. At that same time I started working at Coleman University.
4. So how did you become an instructor at Coleman?
Once I had graduated with my bachelors I was interested in getting my master’s degree, so I came to Coleman to pursue my degree in Information Systems Management. I was going to school and working at the same time. I graduated in July of 2010, and continued working at Sony. After a big project that I was working on was finished, I stopped in to talk to Career Services and catch up with my instructors. I found out that Coleman had started a Game Design (as it was called at the time) program and they were looking for instructors. Career Services took my information and forwarded it to the dean of the program, who called me ten minutes later asking for me to come in and interview. Two weeks later I was a full-time instructor for Coleman.
5. What classes are you teaching now?
I instruct Level Design 1, Intro to Digital Sculpting, the Programming Capstone, and Fundamentals of Game Design. Mainly I teach students the basic structures of game design. It is a very fast and competitive career path to go into, so you need a strong knowledge of every aspect of design.
6. On that note, what are the misconceptions that incoming students have about getting into the Game Development field?
Whenever we have student orientations I am the first person to tell students that if you think that you’ll just walk into a studio and start testing video games, you should throw that idea right out the window. This program is not about that. You are learning a skill set that is very complicated. Even when you’re done with a class meeting, you still have to do more work on your own outside of class. The industry’s first question in an interview will be “what else have you done?” You can create a portfolio that includes your class assignments but companies do not focus on that, they want to see how you applied your skills to an outside project. You need to develop more than programming skills. Game Developers have increased hand-eye coordination, critical thinking, and problem solving skills due to the requirements of this industry. In this industry you will be asked to work long hours and even work overnight to meet deadlines and finish projects, so putting in more hours for professional development will only benefit you. In our program there are really two tracks. The first is more of a programmer role, and the other is the designer role. Each one takes a lot of time to master and you have to do it all of the time, which includes participating in game focused events. Luckily for our students Coleman hosts the Global Game Jam every year, and that has a huge impact. Organizations look for that specifically, as well as your online presence through LinkedIn and Twitch. Networking is a lot more involved in job placement than people realize. Passion is important in this field and students need to have that in order to succeed. I would also recommend that students be prepared to freelance while they are looking for work. Once a project is over you may not have a residual income coming in so be prepared by getting into other projects ahead of time. Be willing to learn as many skill sets as possible. Ask peers who may have a better grasp than you to help you learn more. As long as you communicate the desire to learn, people will be willing to teach you.
7. What are your opinions on the rise in online celebrity gamers, or the professional gamers that compete in world competitions?
Well, social media and online exposure is actually a huge boost to developers looking to get hired by a company. These feeds and uploads are being watched 24/7 by companies looking for new hires. If a studio likes a candidate they will be brought in for testing or interviews. Having a vlog or Twitch channel is a big help for getting yourself noticed. I had two students who were invited to work with famous game vloggers and were flown to a vlogging convention in San Francisco because of their popularity online.
8. Considering your passion for art and your background in it, what are some of the recent games that have come out that you feel are visually/artistically incredible in their style?
I’m going to be a little biased with my answer. I would have to say two of the games that I actually worked on within the last five years. I was an Associate Producer for The Last of Us and I really loved the artwork that was developed for that. Even though I was brought in around the third phase, it was my first big title as Associate Producer and I was freaked out because I was working on that and teaching at the same time! My second choice didn’t do so well commercially, but I really liked Order 1886. I consider that one to be a steampunk version of Van Helsing. You were acting as a werewolf hunter and it was almost like its own cinematic movie. I helped design some of the Demon Dogs that were within the game. The other game that I can think of is Unfinished Swan, you are playing as a little boy who falls into an open world through a book which is all white. As you work your way through the game, colors and structures start to appear and you create your world that way. The first color that is initiated is black so you can create figures and outlines then add color as you go. We tell students when they are applying to a company and want to showcase their best work with a demo, that if you can turn down the volume and run through it and still understand the story no matter where you are, then you have done a great job. I look for that specifically when I am hiring for studios.
9. Can you tell me the most important traits that you look for in a potential Game Development student?
Definitely, I look for a student who is passionate for Game Development and who is an open book. They don’t come into the classroom thinking that they have everything handled, that they only have to learn to do a couple of things. You have to be very motivated and hungry to achieve your goals because this field is very competitive. You have to realize that you and 20-30,000 other people are applying for the same jobs at any given time. Challenge yourself every day to get better; you can’t stay in the same place. You have to reinvent yourself, and the best thing about being in the game industry is that it is not hard to find something new to learn every day. There is no ceiling on what you are capable of in a work position, because the technology in this field is constantly changing so you have to change with it. Confidence is also really important, being able to look someone in the eye and provide straightforward answers will help you stand out from the crowd in an interview and in class.
10. Last question: tell me about your favorite project that a student or group has produced at Coleman?
It was a capstone group in 2014. It was a very unique group with plenty of colorful personalities that also had a lot of motivation and passion for what they ultimately wanted to do. They created an amazing 2D game, with almost every aspect being hand drawn and conceptualized by this group. The project lead was a really shy and laid back student so I purposefully put him in a leadership position. Within hours of their first meeting they came together and completed their concept. This group came in every day that they could and worked on this project, which was incredible. Once they had a finished product, they published it online and received a lot of praise for their work from other developers and programmers. I use this group as an example to motivate students, because it is this type of project that they should be striving for. The capstone is a great way for students to really figure out what it is that they want to do.
If you love gaming and creative art, think about joining our Game Development program! Tommy is just one of the amazing instructors that we have in the program and there are opportunities here for you to grow and establish an exciting career. Call Coleman today at (858) 499-0202 for more information and to schedule a tour!
Cybersecurity is a hot button topic lately. With the rumors of Russian infiltration into the United States Presidential election, and the exposure of private emails and photos onto sites such as WikiLeaks, the privacy that we covet online is becoming increasingly endangered. With the recent phishing scam going through Google Docs, it is imperative to remember the necessary steps to take online in order to ensure that you are not a target of a scam. First, let’s review what online scamming/phishing looks like, and the ways to spot one.
The most likely scam that you will encounter is a phishing email that can be sent to your accounts. Phishing is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a scam by which an e-mail user is duped into revealing personal or confidential information which the scammer can use illicitly.” An email may look legitimate with logos and graphics, but that does not mean that it should be taken at face value. For example, banks have taken a stance against phishing by only allowing account actions to be completed through their own websites or at a physical bank location. Your private bank will never ask you for passwords, social security numbers, account numbers, routing numbers, or any other private information via email (Telegraph.co.uk). Be on the lookout for emails that inform you of account changes or updates; if you did not authorize changes, immediately report this issue. The best course of action to protect yourself if you feel that you have been targeted by a scam is to document as much as you can with photos, emails, and phone calls. If an email comes into your inbox that seems suspicious call the company that supposedly sent it and ask about the email. Taking the initiative to validate the email before responding is one of the best ways to protect yourself from online threats. So what happened in regards to the Google Docs scam that went viral last week?
Gmail users were sent a notification from a known contact to click on a shared Google Doc. In order to access the document, the users had to authorize a transfer of contact information to the sender. Since the sender was perceived to be a friend or family member, there was little hesitation to allow this authorization. Routing the doc through an unauthorized Google Docs app prompted the Gmail user to allow the application to take control of their email information as a “management” tool (BGR.com). As a result, any personal information attached to contacts was downloaded and stored. Google reported shortly after this spamming went viral that over one million accounts were potentially compromised and the unauthorized application was shut down, as well as the email accounts that were the source of the scam. Information from email accounts linked to sites such as iTunes, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook were the most vulnerable to this scam. Any users who had encountered this phishing email were asked to change their emails and passwords immediately. An interesting thing to note is that a majority of these emails were addressed to “firstname.lastname@example.org” (Forbes.com).
One of the first things that you should look for when it comes to identifying phishing emails is the sender’s name, the name that they have addressed the email to, and the language they have used. If there are typos, or if the language is not clear, that should be your first indication that the email in question is not valid. Most often the email address of the sender will look like an official domain, but there could be minor differences such as a period between words, or a domain extension from another country such as “.ru” or “br”, which can be hard to miss. If links are provided in the body of the email, hover your cursor over them and the destination for the link should pop up. If an IP address comes up instead of the domain name, then the link could be fraudulent. Another item to look for is the tone of the message. If you receive an email that has a threat such as closure of an account, that tone is your best indication that the message is fraudulent. A good source of examples for phishing is the Microsoft website, which also lists the information for phishing phone calls and how to report phishing activity.
Taking that extra moment to evaluate an email is your best line of defense in keeping your private information safe. Make sure to update your email passwords and delete unwanted or fraudulent emails as soon as possible. If you are interested in how online security works, and want to learn more about protecting online identities think about the possibility of a career in Cybersecurity. This field is growing fast and will be a lucrative degree option long into the future. Call Coleman today to schedule an appointment and speak with an admissions counselor at (858) 499-0202 Monday through Friday.
What does it take to design and create a video game from scratch? Have you ever wondered what your ideal game would look like, or what you would want to see in a new game, or how long it would take to make your vision into a physical game? The students in our Game Development program took that dream and made it into a reality for their capstone presentation this month. Over the span of ten weeks, a student group came together to create their own game from beginning to end. This included story boarding, character design, background music development, character movement, and multiple game levels. We can only begin to appreciate the amount of work that went into this project! The capstone game is called “Savage Island”, and takes place on an isolated island overrun with dinosaurs that are hungry and looking for a human sized meal. Game players are put into a 2.5D map and have to fight their way through each level until they finally encounter The Boss, a massive T-Rex who will not go down easily! At their capstone presentation the designers discussed their original plan for the game and the challenges that they overcame to make this game a reality. Programs used to create this game include: Unity, Visual Studio, Source Tree, Trello, Photoshop, 3DS Max, zBrush, FreeSound, and Audacity (for the sound mixing and sampling). Each member of the development team took on a specific role in order to efficiently produce content for this game. From the concept art, background set up, and character movement, each aspect of the game was the responsibility of one of the four team members and when the game was presented to the audience it was clear that this was an incredible project. Overall the team discussed their work, and the various programs that they used to develop each piece that they were responsible for. The audience heard first-hand what skills and technologies the team members had to develop in order to complete the assignment, as well as what they plan to add to the game After the initial presentation audience members were asked to play the game themselves and see close up how the mechanics of the game work and try to destroy as many dinosaurs as possible. Audience members were also encouraged to ask questions and some of our Coleman staff members who attended were thrilled to learn more about the game development process from the student’s point of view. What’s next for these game developers? We hope big and exciting things! Congratulations to these excellent students!!
March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on the contributions and movements that have come from women throughout history. Think about what you take for granted every day without thinking of where it came from or who invented it; would you immediately think a woman had created it? Take the modern medical syringe, an item that is now in every doctor’s office across the globe. The first patent for the single plunger syringe was given to a woman, Leticia Greer, in New York in the year 1899 (you can see the original patent application here). In 1966 a woman by the name of Stephanie Kwolek invented the first prototype for Kevlar, the material that would become integral in crash helmets, radial tires, and eventually bulletproof vests (learn more about her invention here). We also owe a lot of our modern inventions in computing and coding to women who were passionate about, and dedicated to improving, technology.
The first documented coding concept for a machine was invented by the Mathematician Ada Lovelace, who had become fascinated with Charles Babbage’s design for a computing machine. The Analytical Engine was conceptualized to perform long and complex mathematical equations in a short amount of time. Using the pattern designs from the Jacquard Loom, Lovelace conceptualized a set of “cards” that would have holes in them that would correspond with numbers and patterns established by the creator. These cards would be read through the holes by the machine and in turn produce a numerical answer. The notes on this card design that Lovelace published in a Scientific Memoirs journal are now considered to be the first plan for a “coding” system for a machine. The Analytical Engine could have been programmable, thus making it customize-able for various types of computing and the punch cards could then also be reused. Initially Ada Lovelace imagined that this engine would be used to create and play music, as well as do complex mathematics. Though the Analytic Engine was never constructed, the notes that Lovelace published set the ground work for the future of programming and computing. For more information on Ada Lovelace and her programming design, click here or visit The Ada Project website.
Another pioneer in computing and programming is Grace Hopper, an Admiral in the United States Navy. Have you ever “de-bugged” your computer? Well that term came from Grace Hopper herself! After removing a moth from the Mark I computer and taping it to her notebook, the term stuck and has been a part of our culture ever since. Hopper was born at the beginning of the 20th century in New York City. After completing her Bachelor’s in Mathematics, she went on the Yale to complete her Master’s and then her Ph.D. She taught for a number of years until she enlisted in the United States Navy Reserve where she was assigned to the Bureau of Ships Computation Project being researched at Harvard University. She was then later named as a Research Fellow. Her work was dedicated to the first large-scale computer named the Mark I, and would go on to help develop the Mark II and Mark III. After working with numerical code in computing, Hopper began work on the first computer compiler and computer programming language referred to as COBOL. It was her idea to start collecting programming commands for a shared library of codes in order to save time and reduce programming errors on projects. The collection of commands using binary code allowed for the computers to begin to understand basic phrases in English and then translate them into binary. She is called “Amazing Grace” for a reason! Learn more about her life and her work here, at the US Navy website.
Mathematicians have been integral in computer and science technologies and even space exploration. During the Space Race in the 1960s, Katherine Johnson paved the way for space flight and helped NASA put Astronauts into orbit, and put them on the Moon. Her story begins in West Virginia where she was born in 1918. From an early age she was gifted with incredible curiosity and determination to succeed. She moved ahead several grades when she was in middle school, and started high school at the age of 13. She graduated from West Virginia State College with honors and began a career teaching mathematics in 1937. By 1939, she was invited to become one of the first African American citizens to attend the Graduate program at the recently opened West Virginia University. Though she left the program early to marry and start a family, she still continued to teach math in local public schools. In 1952 she applied to become a computer for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA’s) Langley Laboratory. At the time this computing section was all African American; science was still segregated. After her first two weeks, she was promoted to work on the Maneuver Loads Branch of the Flight Research Division where she analyzed data from flight tests. After the successful launch of Sputnik from Russia, her work became much more in demand. As NACA (soon to be NASA) began to frantically develop a plan to put men into space, Johnson became an integral part of the team to calculate and analyze data in order to make that happen. Her calculations were used for the Freedom 7 mission in 1961 that put a human into orbit around the Earth, which led to her development of a set of calculations and equations that would make it possible to accurately determine the landing point of a space craft. However, her most famous project was the orbital mission of John Glenn, who demanded that she do the calculations for his orbit despite the mechanical machines that had been put in place to do all of it. He trusted her mind and her calculations with his life, and would not go into space until she had confirmed that the machine’s results were accurate. She did all of the thousands of calculations by hand, using only her desktop mechanical calculating machine, which was at the time the equivalent to a basic calculator. She was also asked to work on the plans for the moon landing and her calculations helped to ensure that the Lunar Lander would synch with the Command and Service Module. After 33 years in Langley, she retired. In 2015, at the age of 97 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. You can read more about her on the NASA website.
We owe a lot to the women who have taken their passions and followed them into greatness. These three women are just the tip of the iceberg on a long list of female led technology development throughout history. The next time you turn on your laptop, or use your phone to calculate, think of these women who had to create these technologies that we freely use today. For more on these women, click on the links provided or go to computerscience.org for more information on other women who have made history and the issues that women in technology are still facing.