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Game On!

Most professors wouldn’t tolerate games in their classrooms. Ann Pendleton-Jullian, however, requires it of her students.

Director of the Knowlton School of Architecture, Pendleton-Jullian teaches an architecture studio in which her students begin the term by playing various strategic games and creating related analytical maps based on theory around how one visualizes information.

Then they design and build their own strategic games.

The result? A disaster, once they try to play the games they designed, she says.

The students find that the games have rules that are too complex, they take too long to learn, and they’re not fun.

game piecesPlaying pieces from a game student Michael Herpy developed in Ann Pendleton-Jullian’s architecture studio. Herpy completed his master’s degree in architecture in 2008.“That thinking becomes so natural for them,” she says, pointing out that changing dynamics affect communities they will work on as architects. “They are working in relationships continually and dynamically, and that translates into design.“In games, by nature every time you make a move, it changes the outcome of the entire rest of the game,” she says. As the students realize this, they work with each other to adjust the rules; they’re designing at the same time they’re playing. She calls the result a “rewiring” of the way students design.

“Had I told them starting out that I was going to get them designing complex, dynamic, emergent systems, they probably would have said, ‘Forget it, I’m not taking this studio, this is way too difficult,’” she says. “But by doing it through game play in a way that is actually fun, they were able to create a skill that then fed back into the design project.”

“The problems of today are complex. They’re culturally, environmentally, technologically politically, economically rich,” Pendleton-Jullian says. “This is really the motivation for me in doing this.”

Professors throughout the College of Engineering are making similar moves, changing learning in the 21st century to better prepare students for the always-evolving work world they’ll soon enter. In teaching, research and day-to-day administration, innovation is permeating the college — and garnering attention both within and beyond the boundaries of the university.

TechColumbus, for example, a technology business incubator, at its 2010 Innovation Awardshonored 10 college faculty members, researchers and partners — including one professor named Inventor of the Year — for innovation. Read about them online.

More evidence of success:

  • Activities of the Honda-Ohio State Partnership, which encompasses programs that prepare the best engineers for the transportation industry, promote opportunities for professional development and enhance collaborative research, carry so much clout that on an annual basis, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee and Hidenobu Iwata, president and CEO of Honda of America Manufacturing, meet to discuss the program features. Among them are collaborations such as MIX, Mobility Innovation Exchange, a research and development program with Ohio State faculty and Honda engineers focusing on tangible results that impact Honda products. The partnership was recognized by Business Facilities magazine as one of the top five industry-university partnerships in the United States, and by Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as a positive model for community outreach and community-engaged curricula.
  • Ohio State has been selected a member of the Boeing Technology Alliance, in which Boeing networks with other companies and universities to seek technology solutions. Because discussions between Boeing engineers and Ohio State researchers are protected under a non-disclosure agreement, the conversations are deeper than they would otherwise be.
  • The college’s move to emphasize research in its strongest areas resulted in the formation of several interdisciplinary research centers; one focused on materials received$10.8 million in funding from the National Science Foundation as a Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, which performs integrated research on emergent materials and on magnetoelectronics, creating new ideas for future generation computing and information storage devices.
  • In 2009, the University System of Ohio honored Bruce Weide, professor, and Tim Long, associate professor, computer science and engineering, with a $1,000 Textbook Faculty Innovator Award for their efforts to develop innovative course materials that pass textbook savings along to students. Weide and Long wrote the textbooks and course packets they used for two of their courses, but instead of publishing them, they made PDF versions available on the course Web site for students to use without buying hard copies.

designed communityA community designed by architecture student Tom Brock, ’06, ’08 M.S., architecture, who in Ann Pendleton-Jullian’s studio learned the dynamics of a changing community. For example, he set up rules establishing carbon neutrality that required him to inclu“When students look into Ohio State,” he says, “they need to see not just Great Big U, but they need to see a place that’s welcoming and innovative.”College of Engineering Interim Dean Gregory Washington says providing access and high quality education is an obligation of Ohio State to fulfill its role as a land-grant institution.

These innovations also support a larger purpose of improving education not just at Ohio State but across the nation, as illustrated in reviews of Pendleton-Jullian’s forthcoming book, “Four Studios (+1),” about the use of gaming in her teaching techniques.

John Seely Brown, independent co-chair of the Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation and co-founder of the Institute for Research on Learning, a non-profit institute for addressing the problems of lifelong learning, called the book “path breaking” in showing how thought and action, vision and agency, coupled withresiliency and resonance, have impact in our complex and changing world.

“This masterpiece will be of great interest not just to designers and architects,” he wrote in a review of Pendleton-Jullian’s book, “but also to educators grappling with re-imagining what education could be in today’s world.”