Milestone for MDP Students

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Irvine, Ca, April 5th , 2013 -- Two UC Irvine undergraduate students have achieved a rare educational triumph: they are the lead authors of a paper accepted at a major research and design conference. 

English and global cultures major Christine Bediones and psychology major Camille Macalinao, both participants in the Calit2/UROP Multidisciplinary Design Program (MDP), will present a paper detailing their work at this year’s Games+Learning+Society Conference 9.0. The paper’s third lead author is MDP fellow Kal McDowd, a graduate student in information and computer sciences.

Macalinao (left) and Bediones (Center) are joined by graduate student Katerina Schenke, who mentored them as they wrote. (Not pictured: graduate student mentor Cathy Tran. "The grad students deserve a ton of credit for making it happen and mentoring the undergrads," said Conley. )

“It's almost unheard of for undergraduates to have papers accepted at this conference,” says AnneMarie Conley, education assistant professor and the authors’ MDP mentor.

The paper, “Are We Washing Poop? Unintended Consequences in Educational Game Design,” details the pitfalls the students faced in creating Down with Food, an educational game to teach elementary school children about the digestive system.  “What game developers and researchers know about what makes games enjoyable to children does not always transfer to educational contexts,” says the first line of the paper’s abstract.

The multidisciplinary team more than earned its “lead author” label by writing, rewriting and editing the work themselves, according to Conley, who has mentored nearly 30 undergraduates through the conference proposal process in the last few years. “This is the very first time that I provided zero line edits. None. I opened the final document prepared to put in a solid evening of work and was shocked to find they had done it already.
“I am so proud of all of them.”

The students are proud as well, and enthusiastic about presenting at the conference. “Writing the paper was difficult, but the great support of our graduate student and professor mentors really allowed us to write a great paper. I was very excited when I found out we were accepted to the conference,” says Macalinao.

“Working up against the midnight submission deadline was undeniably stressful, but our team was extremely pleased with how our paper eventually took shape,” Bediones says. “I was amazed by our collaborative efforts and the ways in which we reconciled our diverse opinions about gaming and education. I'm extremely excited for the conference in June and look forward to seeing all that our fantastic MDP group can accomplish together.”

The multidisciplinary nature of the collaboration was a key factor in their success, McDowd believes. “I felt like the experience of writing with students and researchers from other disciplines was educational and productive.  I learned from them just as I was able to provide a different perspective to the challenging issue of designing educational games that are actually fun!” he said. “It was really a rewarding feeling to hear that our paper submission had been accepted.”

The annual Games+Learning+Society conference, to be held in June in Madison, Wis., focuses on the power of video games, their potential to transform learning and their impact on society.

The MDP students will present their work at the GLS “Hall of Failure,” which the conference’s Web site describes as highlighting “interesting failures … ideas that should have worked but didn’t, presented by the forward-thinking people who dared to try.”

“It might sound like a bad thing,” says Conley. “On the contrary, it’s actually one of the most competitive slots at the conference.”