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STEAM Welcomes Tessa Cooper for ’07-’08 School Year

Tessa Cooper

By Jill Mapes

Tessa Cooper, a 24-year-old Columbus, Ohio, native, did not grow up playing video games or knowing that she would one day find her niche in the computer sciences. Her father, however, did.

“I always thought I would be a journalist or something like that,” Cooper said, “but my dad was convinced that I would be interested in programming.” As a senior in high school, she took a course in robotics and discovered that perhaps her dad was not so far-fetched.

During Pre-College at Ohio University, Tessa, like many college freshmen, was still undecided about her major and her future. After scheduling conflicts, Tessa was left only with a programming class that would fit in her first quarter’s schedule.  She took the programming course and ended up liking it, thus sparking an interest to take other programming classes. Over the next four years, Tessa would take enough engineering and computer classes to graduate from Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology in March 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in computer sciences.

In a similar twist of fate, Tessa attributes her involvement with the STEAM project to her advisor, Dr. Chang Liu. “I wouldn’t have heard about it [STEAM] or paid attention to it if it weren’t for Dr. Liu,” Tessa said. With his guidance, Tessa completed the application process and was accepted to the program during winter quarter of 2007.

Asa result of grant funding through the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, Tessa has the opportunity to hone her game-building skills in Second Life. Since joining the STEAM team, she has built a Second Life module called the Nutrition Game. The game allows people to dine at virtual restaurants that serve typical fast food, as well as traditional Asian and African American cuisine.  Nutrition Game

Based on information about maintaining a healthy body weight, the Nutrition Game evaluates food choices and alerts playersof the long-term health effects of the meals they have chosen. Dr. Liu was impressed by Tessa’s work with the STEAM project, noting, “She did an excellent job developing the Nutrition Game.”

At the 2007 Student Research and Creative Activity Fair, Tessa shared hergame with middle school and high school students whowere alarmed by the amount of calories and fat they consume in a day. “Tracking calories in a virtual world that looks similar to ours will be more effective than counting calories on paper in helping people to make healthier food choices,” Tessa said.

Additionally, Tessa began working in the classroom with STEAM in summer 2007, and the project’s coordinators are excited to welcome Tessa as the newest STEAM member. “She is good at developing lesson plans and interacting with kids in classrooms. She’s a perfect fit for the STEAM program,” Dr. Lui said.