Teaching animal science through interactive gaming

By Kaitlyn Arnold

Nicholas Free isn’t your traditional animal science senior. However, he has never allowed his lack of experience in the industry to hinder his creativity and passion.

During the spring of 2019, Free had the privilege to attend Professor & Extension Livestock Specialist, Dr. Ron Gill’s presentation about proper cattle handling methods and techniques. He was surprised at how many questions the audience had about the methods used. 

“I didn’t have much experience with livestock, but I understood the concepts immediately,” Free said. “I began thinking about how I could help people visualize the concepts without having hands-on experience.”

Free began expanding on the idea by networking with Texas A&M faculty and researching how to create video games in augmented reality.  

“I started reading the Unreal Engine Engine 4 manual,” Free said. 

However, everything started to progress further after meeting with Animal Nutrition Professor, Dr. Luis Tedeschi. 

“Everything changed when I met Dr. Tedeschi,” Free said. “Dr. Tedeschi gave me the incentive and opportunity to create my first game simulation ever.”

Free hit the ground running designing the game’s layout. And with a little help from Free’s brother, Richard Toussaint III, Tedeschi and Kazim Hasan the game became a reality. 

CowSim

CowSim is separated into three parts; the first section is designated to teach the player how to behave in an open environment with cattle. In the second section, players will learn the proper techniques needed for driving cattle in a production facility. In the last chapter, players will apply their knowledge from the previous sections by leading the cattle through the facility with additional obstacles. 

According to Free, the main goal of this game is for players to learn how to handle livestock in the real world and feel comfortable doing so. 

“Overall, I feel very comfortable to say that if a person who has never had any interaction with livestock were to play this game, they would have sufficient knowledge on how to handle them,” Free said. “I hope we can start the process of interactive learning through simulation and games as a model to be used in the education system. “

For more information about CowSim and Free’s future projects, please email Free at free.nicholas@tamu.edu

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For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Kaitlyn Arnold at kaitlyn.arnold@tamu.edu or (979) 845-1542.

 

 

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