APSU physics students create Super Mario experience for Google campers
(Posted June 11, 2018)
High school students are getting a Super Mario Bros.-sized treat this summer at Google-sponsored coding camps at Austin Peay State University.
The College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, has put up a life-sized set that depicts the first level of Nintendo’s 1985 classic Super Mario Bros. And it’s interactive, allowing students to run, jump and bash through the game, complete with boing, ping and slide sound effects.
Josh Allen, a recent physics graduate from the Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy, envisioned the set, and Jonathan Bunton, also a recent physics graduate, led the programming.
They and other members of the astronomy and physics club Del Square Pi built the set at last October’s Greater Halloween Options for Safe Trick-or-treating at APSU. The club also rolled out the set at November’s Science Fiction & Fantasy Expo at Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library and April’s Month of the Military Child at Fort Campbell.
Families at those events enjoyed the set so much that STEM’s interim dean, Dr. Karen Meisch, asked the college’s lab manager Bryan Gaither to rebuild it for the Google camps.
The set comprises six panels the club needed to paint, a trampoline, a pole, some wiring and a small, hand-built computer to operate the interactive features from the game: a Goomba, a pipe, three blocks and a stage-ending flag pole.
The Raspberry Pi computer behind the set and its Python coding is where the magic lies for this summer’s Google camp students.
“They’re like, ‘This is even cooler than seeing what’s out front,’” said Bunton, who will start his graduate work at UCLA later this summer.
Added Allen, who’ll start his graduate work at Vanderbilt: “We’ve only ever set this up for little kids, which is awesome, but with the high school kids, we’re like, ‘Look behind it.’”
The Google-sponsored coding camps run through June. Visit apsu.edu/csci/camp/ for more information.