From Playing Minecraft to Hungry Black Hole: How One Grymes Student’s Natural Curiosity Turned into an Award-Winning Game

November 15, 2016
November 15, 2016

From Playing Minecraft to Hungry Black Hole: How One Grymes Student’s Natural Curiosity Turned into an Award-Winning Game

Student Spotlight: Ronan Boyarski ‘18

What parent hasn’t had to pry their child from the highly addictive game of Minecraft? For many children, Minecraft is an escape into an alternate world. Yet, when Grymes seventh grader Ronan Boyarski ‘18 played the game for the first time, Minecraft was more than just a game; it was a challenge. When Ronan first started playing Minecraft, he quickly became curious about how video games were designed. “Minecraft was probably the first game beyond my Leap Pad that I explored on my own, and I really wanted to know how it worked.” This curiosity led Ronan to delve into the world of programming, and after burning through some books about Scratch (a web-based drag-and-drop programming language by MIT), he soon began taking self-guided online classes in Minecraft Modding, app making, and programming in C and Swift. It wasn’t long before Ronan started tinkering with his own game design.

In Ronan’s latest game, called Hungry Black Hole, the player moves multiple objects through a maze, all while navigating black holes, dodging ricocheting asteroids, and avoiding obstacles and penalties. “In the end it’s basically organized chaos,” laughs Ronan. “It was initially a game about shapes, but I kept changing what I didn’t like, and it eventually ended up very different!”

hungry-black-holeClick to see a video preview of Hungry Black Hole

What’s more incredible than a twelve year-old generating his own highly sophisticated and complex computer program out of his natural curiosity for how things work? Winning a national award for it. Just yesterday, Hungry Black Hole received an award in the Middle School Open Platform category of the 2016 National STEM Video Game Challenge, a program aimed to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) among youth around the country by transforming their passions for video games into designing and creating their own video games. Among more than 3,000 entries in 18 categories, only 24 middle school and high school winners were recognized with an award during a ceremony at National Geographic in Washington DC. Ronan’s was one of the award-winning games.

Among more than 3,000 entries in 18 categories, only 24 middle school and high school winners were recognized with an award.

“The National STEM Video Game Challenge promotes vital new skills like coding and systems design that all young people will need to compete and collaborate in a digital and global world,” said Michael H. Levine, Executive Director, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. “We are thrilled to honor these students and their outstanding games.”

“It was pretty cool,” shrugs Ronan when asked to describe the day. “My favorite part was the Lunch & Learn segment, where we got to hear from lead designers of some pretty big games and even from one of the designers of the XBox.”

Now that he’s an award-winning game designer, what does the future hold for Ronan Boyarski? Well, for one thing the seventh grade play. Ronan will take the stage in the role of The Mirror in this week’s seventh grade play, Tomato Red and the Seven or Eight Nerds, written and directed by Upper School English & Drama teacher Dana Bost. “I really love drama class and find it fun to be whatever you want when you’re playing in a role on stage,” says Ronan. The Grymes seventh grader, whose favorite subjects include science and drama – and who enjoys modifying Nerf guns, reading, doing Taekwondo, playing piano, hiking, listening to Hamilton, playing video games, and taking high school and college-level classes through Stanford Online High School in his spare time – plans to major in computer science and minor in drama in college. From there, the possibilities are endless. “I think I want to be a game designer when I grow up, but I don’t really know for sure yet. Whatever it is, it’ll involve computers!”

What we do know for sure at this point: the future will be anything but a hungry black hole for this rising young star!

Ronan Boyarski ‘18 is a seventh grader at Grymes, and his brother Jack ‘23 is a fourth grader.
To read more about The National STEM Video Game Challenge, click here!

 

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