Ever wonder what it’s like to be mayor of America’s largest city, with all the tradeoffs every decision entails? Well, four computer-science students from Brooklyn Technical High School turned the idea into a game. A user playing “City Dash” takes on the position of mayor and is tasked with balancing the needs of the city until the end of their term, which can lead to a range of outcomes from general happiness to widespread discontent, said Daniel Greco, one of the Brooklyn Tech team members.
Competing in a pitch contest focused on the topic of “connected cities,” the Brooklyn Tech team won for “most creative.” The contest happened this week at the 2018 Computer Science Opportunity Fair (CS Fair), which drew 2,000 students from 60 public schools, making it the largest high-school computer science fair in New York City history. This year’s CS Fair took place at the Fort Washington Avenue Armory in Washington Heights and aimed to educate students on careers and educational opportunities within the field.
The fair is a part of a larger program, the Computer Science for All initiative, which works to bring top-notch computer-science education to New York City’s public-school students. The initiative specifically targets students that have been historically underserved in the field. “The CS Fair is a great opportunity for students from every background to get exposure to the tech companies and jobs that will shape the future,” said the initiative’s founder, venture capitalist Fred Wilson. “This year’s CS Fair was the biggest we’ve ever seen, with more students and sponsors than ever before, showing how much enthusiasm there is for computer science and STEM in New York.”
There were 65 companies, colleges, and extracurricular computer-science programs represented at the event, as well as a speaker series featuring employees from companies such as Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase. Members of the Tech:NYC business network explained to students how they can take an idea and turn it into a company. Of the 60 schools in attendance, 18 were Brooklyn-based, while organizations from the borough included Etsy, Brooklyn College, Long Island University, and the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.
Six teams competed in the pitch contest that focused on the connected-cities theme. The challenge: “Make a game that identifies issues in your community that you want to change with technology and utilize design thinking to re-imagine the space or place in your city to create solutions. Determine your solution by using and exploring a variety of techniques including research, interviews with people in your community, site visits, drawing prototypes, and creating models,” were the instructions given.
Besides the Brooklyn Tech winners, teams from Tottenville High School won Best Presentation, Most Complex, and Best Use of CS Concepts; the team from Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria won Best Aesthetics; the team from Information Technology High School won Greatest Technical Challenge; the team from Collegiate Institute for Math and Science won Crowd Pleaser; and the team from Urban Assembly Maker Academy won Greatest Social Impact.
In Brooklyn Tech’s game, said Greco, a junior at the school, the user is the mayor. With each turn, the “mayor” is presented with a situation and a yes-or-no choice. “Depending on the choice, the 3 gauges (Health, Welfare, and Happiness) will be influenced either positively or negatively,” he says. “For example, if the user chooses to raise the fare for the subway, the welfare of the city will rise, but the happiness of its citizens will fall. If any of the gauges fall below 0, the user is overthrown and the city will fall into ruin. If the user makes it through their term as mayor (18 turns), the user wins and is offered re-election.”
New NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza was at the fair too, where he distributed honors to winners of the student showcase and gave a short talk to students about the importance of computer science. He emphasized promoting diversity in CS and STEM education and jobs. “We in New York City are not only going to provide computer science for all, but we are going to make sure those that have careers here look like New York City, with more women and more people of color,” said Carranza during his talk. “We are going to lead the nation in computer science instruction right here in New York City.”
Added Julie Samuels, executive director of Tech:NYC: “Teaching students the skills they need to succeed in high-growth industries is key to our economic future.”
The other Brooklyn schools in attendance at the fair: Abraham Lincoln High School, Academy for Conservation and the Environment, Academy for Young Writers, Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance, Brooklyn Preparatory High School, Brooklyn Studio Secondary School, Cypress Hills Collegiate Preparatory School, East New York Middle School of Excellence, High School for Youth and Community Development, High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology, HS for Innovation in Advertising and Media, The school for Human Rights, Uncommon Prep Charter HS, William E Grady, Williamsburg High School of Arts & Technology, Clara Barton High School, and East Williamsburg Scholars Academy.