Last Friday a few of us here at Info Pixel had the opportunity to showcase our game Flight Manager at the 2017 Australian International Airshow. With Thales and AIE backing us, we polished Flight Manager, the game we made as interns, into a showcase piece for the Airshow. This opportunity allowed us to show parliamentary ministers that game development is a STEM field that should not be ignored. We would not have been able to do any of this if Thales Australia hadn’t been willing to take a chance and hire a small group of game development students as interns as a part of their Innovation and STEM area.
In the middle of last year, Info Pixel was formed as a small team to take on an internship with Thales Australia. The internship was designed to look for new perspectives on air traffic control and involved working with Thales innovation leader Mark O’Flynn. Mark continually worked with us during the 6-month internship, allowing us to do test runs of Flight Manager at the Thales center, giving us a demo of air traffic control and providing us with his vast knowledge of the industry. When the internship finished in November 2016, we had no idea that we might be invited to showcase our game at the Airshow. You can imagine our surprise when Mark approached us at the beginning of February this year and extended an invitation.
Meeting with Mark again was an exciting and daunting prospect. Learning that we had just 2 weeks to take our internship project and make it into something ready to show off at a popular public event was going to be a challenge, but not one we were going to back down from. We gathered the opinions of our AIE mentors and got to work. We started with the small things, updating our menu, terrain textures, object sizes and other details. Then we moved onto the complicated stuff. Joe, our programmer, worked hard getting the collision detection system working well, before moving on to creating a small tutorial to help people play the game. With these changes we went to Thales to have a testing session, we came away with a valuable lesson; people didn’t read tutorials. However, this lesson came a little too late, we had run out of time and needed to work on getting the game to run smoothly on tablet devices. This was a problem in itself, when the hardware arrived, on which we had to install Flight Manager, we found that it wasn’t compatible. Luckily AIE allowed us to use their tablets. So armed with our game we embarked to Avalon to present Flight Manager.
By 9:30 am that Friday morning, we had met the Minister for Defense Marise Payne. She seemed impressed with our game, and even more so with Thales’ support of getting kids into STEM fields through game development. Minister for Defense Industry, Christopher Pyne came through next. We weren’t able to showcase our game to him directly but he did take a look at another game project Thales supported. There was a small lull in important visitors to the Thales booth after Minister Pynes visit, one in which one of our team members learned the valuable lesson about wearing comfortable footwear to exhibitions, especially if you are an exhibitor. Dennis Richardson, the Secretary of Defense, came through our area next. He was quite impressed with our game and even more so at the way that technology can spread across a number of different fields.
It was a sentiment he shared with Stuart Ayres MP, the previous Minster for Trade and Industry, who stayed for a while and had a play of our game. He, like the others who tried the game, enjoyed it even though they had a bit of trouble to start off with. One of the highlights was watching a small group of current air traffic controllers has a go, and compete with each other for the best score.
Friday and the weeks leading up to it were an experience that we will not forget. We put a lot of work into our game and learned a lot in return. “Always have a backup plan” and, “people don’t read tutorials” are the ones that will stick with us the most, those and be sure to wear comfortable shoes. We would like to express our thanks to both Thales and AIE for giving us the opportunity to undertake the internship, it truly was a memorable day and a milestone for this small game development team.