New Jersey Institute of Technology Students Work With Newark School Children To Learn Mapping and Create Video Game

NEWARK, March 7--The simple idea is a geek's dream and the envy of creative pedagogues. Information technology students at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and some 20 Newark fourth graders have spent the past three months tooling around town video-taping landmarks - such as the new sports stadium - to create an interactive, educational video and game software to be viewed on a computer.

Ostensibly the video is being developed to teach mapping skills and local geography while also promoting area landmarks and history. However, just as importantly, both young and older participants have gained a hands-on appreciation of software development and designing video games, grappled with the business of marketing and copy righting, and negotiated with city agencies to gather necessary resources.

"In addition, everyone is also having fun working together," says Robert Friedman, Ph.D., a research professor in the information technology program at NJIT.

(NOTE: Reporters may view this class in action Friday, March 8, 10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. at NJIT when the two groups merge for an initial viewing of their work on the screen. Contact Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436 for details.

The NJIT students are undergraduates in the university's new College of Computer Sciences, and the elementary school students hail from St. Philip's Academy, Newark. A $2.5 million, three-year grant from the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education now in its second year, funds the project.

The grant, which is called the New Jersey Information Technology Opportunities for the Workforce, Education and Research (NJ-TOWER), aims to increase student and faculty collaboration with New Jersey high-tech industry plus enhance the university's capacity to meet workforce needs.

The focus of the software design project has included bringing in an educational technology consulting company called Little Bytes currently housed in the Enterprise Development Center - the business incubator - at NJIT. The design has also aimed to build cooperation between NJIT and Newark agencies. Yet more goals, adds Friedman, have been to give NJIT students real products to develop in a real-world setting, and provide an activity for NJIT students who contributes to the welfare of Newark residents.

Friedman expects the software to be ready for review by the fall 2002 semester. "Basically the plan is to keep the focus on the needs of the St. Philip's kids. The software is not targeted for commercial profit, though, other Newark school children may be interested in it," says Friedman. Should a wider distribution of this nonprofit venture be sought, trademark owners would be the NJIT students, the St. Philip's students, their teacher, and Little Bytes.

"The fourth graders have been an integral part of the design and development process offering materials, ideas and giving us lots of feedback," adds Friedman. "We wanted their input throughout the entire project. And that's what we ultimately have going for us here."

Participating NJIT students include Brandon M. Amodeo, Florham Park; Ritika Arora, Hightstown; Parag G. Himani, Bloomfield; Rajesh S. Chawla, Clifton; Sohil M. Chheda, Kearny; Timothy R. Cox, Kinnelon.

Other students are: Nicholas Debonis, Caldwell; Peter Hsiao, Parsippany; Theodore Ragavas, Linden; Marc T. Sequeira, Somerset; Nainsi D. Sheth, Bloomfield.

Still others are: Michelle Springs, East Orange; Gosia Szczerpanska, Bayonne; and William Zimmerman, Baltimore, MD.


NJIT is a public, scientific and technological research university enrolling more than 8,800 students. The university offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees to students in 80 degree programs throughout its six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. The division of continuing professional education offers adults eLearning, off campus degrees and short courses. Expertise and research initiatives include architecture and building science, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and science, information technology, manufacturing, materials, microelectronics, multimedia, telecommunications, transportation and solar astrophysics. Yahoo! Internet Life magazine cites NJIT as a "perennially most wired" university.

Contact Information:   Sheryl Weinstein
Robert Florida
Public Relations 
(973) 596-3433