Students in the AP Computer Science classes at Webster Schroeder and Webster Thomas High Schools learned about computer coding strategies during a “Battle Royale” on June 9 and 10.

The event allowed students to pit their code against each other, as the code played a digital version of the game Gobblet. The two-player game is played much like tic-tac- toe, but with more excitement as the pieces can gobble each other up.

“Keeping students engaged in learning after they have taken the AP exam in May is always difficult,” said Sage Miller, a math/computer science teacher at Webster Schroeder High School. “This year, using Gobblet as the project after the AP, I didn’t have to remind the students to stay on task even once.”

To conduct the battle royale, the AP students used game engine software developed by researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology. The software was part of a 2011 National Science Foundation grant aimed at teaching introductory computer science concepts in new ways. The game engine is also used by RIT students in introductory computing courses.

James Heliotis, a professor of computer science at Rochester Institute of Technology, who helped develop the service along with colleagues, gave students access to the software and attended the battle royale. He remarks that the high school students enjoyed the friendly competition as they watched their computerized players pair off against each other.

“We don’t tell students exactly what they should code, just that they need to come up with player strategies that win the game,” said Heliotis. “It’s a different kind of thinking and I believe it helps to get young minds interested in coding.”

“The students came in and got right to work with their partners every day, often before class even started,” Miller said. “It was a great experience and I hope to continue using it in the future.”

Heliotis wants to see more students utilizing the game engines RIT created and is interested in talking with other local educators interested in participating in similar programs with RIT. For information: rit.edu/gccis.