Mila Pokorny: I Taught at TechniGals STEAM Camp and It Was Awesome

Mila Pokorny is a longtime Dev Night regular and volunteer. She’s an adjunct professor at Moore College, art director at Deerfox Games, and has previously done work for Quadratron Games at the late Philly Game Forge. Supporters of our Patreon might recognize her work from our awesome monthly art packs, which she organizes and donates her artwork to! Mila just finished teaching at TechniGals STEAM Camp, and is sharing an account of her experience.

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TechniGals was a camp I had the opportunity to work for over the course of the previous week over at the Middletown Free Library. This was a camp for young girls (ages 9 ~ 13) where they can explore STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) fields.

During the course of the camp I focused on how games work, writing your own choose your own adventure books (using word webs) and how to translate those word webs into Twine, an interactive fiction tool by Chris Klimas.

Philly Dev Night once had a guest appearance from Chris Klimas via Skype. He talked about tools for game making and accessible materials for all ages. Much of the talk focused on communication of tools, and wonderful digital games/toys made from other tools. Twine was a perfect tool for the class, since the library had to share computers with the Robotics camp that occurred after, and anyone who needed a computer at the time. The “Use It Online” option that allows Twine 2.0 to be used via browser was fantastic. Girls were able to save their work for later, and some even finished their work at home with tutorials.

We didn’t cover much code in TechniGals; our time was limited, and the girls really just had a ton of fun writing and making a grand adventure. We mostly focused on winning/losing conditions and creative ways to end stories. Well, until I showed them how to use an image as a background–then they went WILD. The girls wrote a plethora of fun stories, including: (but not limited to)

– being stranded in the desert and getting eaten by a crocodile

– traveling forward in time to run away from basketball-playing snakes

– trying to survive a plague

– hanging out with Harry Potter

– participating in the Fairy Olympics

A fun time was had by all.

Also during the camp, the girls were able to talk to 1-2 speakers a day. All of them were women in the STEAM fields, who all had the same quote in their presentations: “We didn’t have this when I was your age.” This is a strong note to hit on. It brought me back to my high school days of being the only girl in the Tech Class (commonly known as shop class) because I wanted to build and work with wood, like my dad, who was a carpenter and contractor. It was one of my strongest classes in middle school. My CO2 car got second place among the entire 8th grade class. In the first week of class, I got my period, but didn’t know. There was a spot on my pants. I was bullied and laughed at so much that I changed focus to art. When I got to college, I wanted to be a Game Art Major, but I was too scared of the lack of girls in the classes. So, I just audited classes, and kept my Animation Major.

There wasn’t a camp when I was little to prepare me to be the only girl in the room, and I really wish there had been. Maybe I wouldn’t have been such a loner in school, and maybe I would actually be a carpenter now. I just didn’t want to feel as alone as I did then.

In college, I met Andy Brown and Greg Mirles, who invited me to a game club. It was only through being invited into a community that I began to feel safe and respected. Zenas Bellace was the person who invited Andy and I to Dev Night. Philly Dev Night has been such a fantastic experience, partly because I’m not the only girl there. Actually, some of my best friends were people I met through Dev Night. I wish I had Philly Dev Night when I was in college, or even in high school.

The camp, overall, made me appreciate all the things I have worked hard up until this point to do, and also made me remember how much I like to teach. I return to teaching at Moore College of Art and Design this Friday, and I have never been so excited for summer to end.

Mila’s artwork is here.

Here’s more about TechniGals.

Down The Rabbit Hole Jam

The first game jam at G-Team, our interim space after the Game Forge closing, was a huge success!

We played 9 games, each inspired by the “down the rabbit hole” motif found in stories like Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Devs were challenged to make a game about stepping into an unfamiliar world–with laws and logic that are beyond our understanding.

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After lots of play testing and some multiplayer competition, we voted on a winner:
Oh, The Places We’ll Go by Josh Safran! His game–which he showed off on multiple devices–involved tapping yourself across a psychedelic map to master the awkward controls and collect points.

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Download Oh, The Places We’ll Go and see for yourself!

View the rest of this jam’s entries here.