Pixel Arts Game Education: Student combines nonprofit, research

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Junior Amy Vanderzanden helps local youth build their self confidence by creating and designing games through a not-for-profit association called Pixel Arts Game Education.

Located in downtown Portland, Pixel Arts Game Education helps promote wider access to technology education for students K-12 to help strengthen their skills needed to thrive in the global economy. According to the Pixel Arts website, their mission is to, “Create safe, intergenerational learning spaces to play, build and design games together.”

This organization tries to reach out to underprivileged youth during camps held in summer and winter. Volunteers and mentors help these kids gain confidence in fields related in science, art and design and tie it all back to video games.

“The philosophy is to get kids to do things,” said Vanderzanden.

Kids in camps learn how to create games by working with mentors or experts. Activities like “Game Jam” involve making a game in 24 hours.

“It’s more then just making a game, it’s the learning process and community involvement,” said Vanderzanden.

Pixel Arts is an avenue for youth to explore what they are capable of creating and possibly make a career aspiration out of it.

“Pixel Arts is also a way to reach out to adults who want to learn and grow as well,” said Vanderzanden.

This organization is an advocate for applying the creation of building games to generate positivity. The goal of the organization is to help build confidence in the underprivileged youth and create peer groups they can turn to.

“At every camp there is that one kid who is just a little bit more quiet in the beginning,” said Vanderzanden. “And later they find their niche and gain more self confidence, it’s really cool to see that as a mentor.”

Vanderzanden found out about Pixel Arts through working at the psychology department with Professor Erika Kleinknecht.

Vanderzanden is doing a research assessment on the confidence levels of the kids involved in Pixel Arts. In her assessment, she looks at the artwork done by the kids and analyzes what they learned and how they feel creating their project.

“Personally, I like games and I think it’s a cool way to teach kids and see them grow throughout the camp,” said Vanderzanden.

Vanderzanden and her colleagues are collecting used and unused art supplies including pencils, markers, tape, art books or tracing tools in donation boxes in the University Center, the library, all residence halls, Bates house, Taylor Meade Performing Arts Center and more places. Donations will be going to the local youth a part of Pixel Arts organization in hopes to design games or used in other activities. If a student would like to donate to the Pixel Arts organization, they can drop it off at any of the boxes located in the buildings.

The program is always looking for new volunteers to help raise awareness about Pixel Arts. Student volunteers and mentors are not required to have previous experience.

Volunteers are required to have passion to take on the job. If a student would like to volunteer at Pixel Arts, a contact form on the Pixel Arts website would need to be filled out and submitted.

On Oct. 25, students will have the chance to win a cash prize and donate to a good cause while having fun. Pacific University will be holding a board game tournament in Burlingham lobby at 6 p.m. There is a $5 entree fee, where half of the proceeds will go to a local nonprofit and the other half will go into the prize pool. The top two winners of the tournament will win a cash prize.


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