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Nykl brings “Talent and Experience” to the STEAM project

By Sarah Slavik

July 12, 2006

Scott NyklATHENS, Ohio (July 12, 2006) — Scott Nykl’s fascination with computers began at an early age. When he was introduced to Wolfenstein 3D , a groundbreaking video game widely know for its popularization of the first person shooter in the mid-1990s, Nykl was instantly spurred to find out how computers work, how they talk to each other, and how someone can make 3-D worlds within a computer.

Nykl didn’t waste any time honing his interests into talents. Before graduating from high school as his class valedictorian, he had independently earned his CNE (Certified Novell Engineer) and CCNA (Cisco Certified Networking Associate). These are computer network/IT related industry certifications that many professionals seek. Nykl had two at the tender age of 18.

Nykl says that throughout his undergraduate career, his interest in computer simulation, graphics, and networking grew. In 2002, he placed 6th in the Nation for Computer Networking Concepts at a National Convention for the Future Business Leaders of America. He is featured as the lead author in an academic publication for his work on a Satellite controlled model Hummer H2. He presented his work at the 2006 MICS Computing Symposium.

In a natural culmination of his talents and interests, Nykl was also inspired to create a number of advanced interactive computer programs. As Dr. Chang Liu, assistant professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, explained “Scott’s experience as an undergrad working on a network game with a 3-D graphics engine in an independent undergraduate student project at UW-Platteville, made him an exceptional candidate for the STEAM project.”

Space GameIn the first game, Nykl created a space for a number of players to connect online and dog-fight in outer space. Each player could command their own space craft and utilize their laser to shoot at opponents.

In another project, Nykl offered a creative take on a popular, cutting-edge Lego product, Lego Mindstorm Robots. The kits, distributed by the Lego Corporation, allow its user to custom build and program a mini-robot to do any number of activities. The technology is relatively expensive, costing around $250 per robot, but Scott didn’t want money to prevent anyone from experiencing the fun. “What I did was create a virtual environment on the computer that simulated what a real robot would do. This way, instead of having to have an actual Lego Mindstorms robot, all one needed was this computer program,” he explained.

Nykl, now 22, earned Highest Honors when he graduated first in his class with a B.S. in Software Engineering from University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 2006. He will begin his graduate work in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University this year as a part of a project named Science and Technology Enrichment for Appalachian Middle-Schoolers, or STEAM. Nykl was attracted to Ohio University’s graduate program because he felt that his prior experience lent itself well to the STEAM mission.

Lego  GameSTEAM has been made possible by a three year, $1.67 million National Science Foundation grant won by faculty at Ohio University’s Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology and College of Education. The grant is one of the largest Ohio University has ever been awarded.

Nykl has displayed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to apply his past experience “to inspire students to pursue science related fields” and help teachers keep students engaged in the classroom. Working in his school district, Nykl has gained valuable experience aiding teachers who may not be as interested in what he calls, the more “technical workings” of computers. “I will be using my skills to create fun and educational software that teaches middle-school science topics such as mass, volume, motion, and many other standardized curricula,” he said.

Dr. Liu says that Scott “brings talent and experience in game development to the STEAM project and is a welcome addition to the project team.” Undoubtedly, with fellows like Nykl working in classrooms this fall, teachers and students in middle schools across Appalachia will benefit from the exceptional talent that Ohio University has to offer.