Mines students build virtual program for unique high school

Colorado School of Mines students in an advanced software engineering class created a flight simulator program for geography classes at Lakewood’s Brady High, a school focused on students who have dropped out, been expelled or are just not attending school.

Troy Braley, principal of BHS, approached Mines to see if any computer science students could help with a software project idea he had.

Mines Professor Cyndi Rader said his proposed GeoPod application was a perfect fit for her students, as it required knowledge of networking, Google Earth and user interface design.

“The goal of creating a system that would be easy for the teachers to use and immediately engaging for the at-risk high school students was especially appealing to our students,” Rader said.

The software program, developed by Mines students Kyle Tucker, Han Tran and Michael Hughes, allows users to navigate Google Earth areas with a joystick. Geographic images display across five separate 42-inch computer monitors. The program took six weeks for Tucker and Hughes to complete and is built on Google Earth’s Liquid Galaxy methodologies.

The students were able to choose from several community projects, but decided on the GeoPod project for different reasons. Hughes supported the school’s core mission to provide a quality education to students who recently dropped out or were expelled. He also liked the wide range of technologies the project required. Tucker felt this project would have a big impact.

“A lot of the projects had very positive messages and uses, but I felt that BHS had the potential to help the most kids,” Tucker said.

BHS is in the initial stages of implementing and integrating the new technology within the curriculum. Braley’s goal is for teachers to use it during daily instruction.

“It is used as a reward for students, as the joystick gives it a feeling of flying to various places and makes it more fun than sitting at a computer,” Braley said. "If we cannot hook the students within a three-week window, we most likely will not be successful with them.”