UCS students create ‘solution to pollution’ video game for challenge

Utica Community Schools sophomores Logan Lawler and Drew Oleski earned $10,000 in scholarships in the Games for Change Student Challenge with their video game, Port Pickup.

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Two Eisenhower High School and Utica Center for Science and Industry sophomores have earned $10,000 in scholarships through the Games for Change Student Challenge.

Logan Lawler and Drew Oleski designed a video game, Port Pickup, in which players move a boat around the ocean and gain energy through reducing pollution and collecting trash.

According to Oleski, simplicity was the key.

“For a long time, we had ideas of making other games, like a cooking-themed adventure, but we still wanted simplicity. Port Pickup’s idea was the result of a combination of a lot of different ideas. It’s still hard to believe all of this, like we know we won but some days, it will just be like, ‘We did make Port Pickup.’ It really shows us what we can accomplish,” Oleski said via email.

Lawler said it took a bit of brainstorming before the idea for the championship-winning game came close to being complete.

“We brainstormed on a google doc for around an hour before finally coming up with a game idea that fit the sustainable cities theme, and that idea is what is now Port Pickup. When I first imagined the game when we thought of the idea, it looked very similar to the current Port Pickup, which shows me that I am able to put my ideas into concept,” he said in an email.

The Games for Change Student Challenge is a national game design program that aims to combine students’ passion for games with digital learning and civic engagement.

Students from across the country submit video games and advance through local, regional and national competitions. Industry pros and topic experts evaluate the entries. 

The success on a national stage not only gives Lawler and Oleski a $10,000 head start in saving for college, but it also encourages them to follow their interests in designing and programming video games.

“This showed us that we could make something worthy of winning a $10,000 scholarship. This (is) a really big accomplishment that will motivate us a lot,” Lawler stated in a press release.

Port Pickup is available online at drrewww.github.io/port_pick up.

Center for Science and Industry teacher Melissa Webb said she is proud of Lawler and Oleski.

“Drew and Logan embraced a challenge, as well as the skills taught at CSI, and worked independently to create a computer game that teaches our community how to better care for the environment,” Webb stated in a press release.

Both students credited CSI for building their skills that they used to win the challenge. Lawler and Oleski said they spent five months taking their game from concept to completion.

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