North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2012

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Case studies Students in Wake Tech's gaming program come from as far away as New York and Montana because of the success of its curriculum. fact that our students have access to resources like that really gives Wake Tech a big advantage," Rotenberry says. Many students come to Wake Tech from other parts of North Carolina to take part in the program. Others have relocated to Raleigh from as far away as New York and Montana. While that option is far from cheap — tuition at the college in 2011-12 for out-of-state students is $258.50 per credit hour, compared with $66.50 for North Carolina residents — it is vastly more affordable than the handful of other gaming programs around the nation. Wake Tech President Steve Scott says the key to the program's success is the advice it gets from the industry. "One of the unique things about a community college is we actually do listen to our advisory committees," Scott says. The 23-year veteran of the N.C. Community College System points to the multidisci- plinary nature of the college's gaming curriculum, blending the obvious pro- gramming and graphic-design courses with instruction in storytelling, characterization and art. The course work also serves other academic departments at Wake Tech. "Our automotive systems, technology and nursing programs are using simulation- based instruction," Scott says. He believes industry segments most likely to experi- ence growth will be games designed for teaching and learning. "Simulations are the next great leap forward in education." Ted Morris, associate vice chancellor of engagement, innovation and eco- nomic development at East Carolina University, says the advanced-learning- technologies cluster is one of three ECU is pushing to spur regional economic development. Given its longtime leader- ship in Internet-based distance learning, it's a natural fit for the Greenville school. "We hope to be both a consumer of these things and a producer as well," Morris says. With its heritage as a teacher-training institution and strong fine arts and 30 North Carolina Economic Development Guide computer science programs, ECU is a resource for companies engaged in technology-based learning. "You need good programmers along with people who are experts in instruction," Morris says, "and you need creative professionals who can make these environments as engaging as possible." That means writers, artists and even performers who provide the voices and background music for games. One key asset is ECU's Innovation Design Lab, which serves as a "collaborative vortex" where engineers, graphic design- ers and business people come together to engage in product-development ventures. Not far away, the university's Movement Science Lab houses a motion- capture studio that can produce Holly- wood-quality digital images that depict human movement. "We're able to work with the film industry as well as gaming firms," Morris says. ECU's other target industries, including health care and defense, also take advantage of the university's work in digital simulation and games, which are used in surgical training as well as in helping physicians sharpen their operating- room skills. ECU has developed new tools as part of its work with the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior program, a partnership that helps with the rehabilita- tion of injured Marines at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville. "Thus far, we've had good success with that," Morris says. In a state where annual military spending totals about $23.4 billion, bases such as Lejeune help spread the economic impact of the digital-gaming industry across the state. "I see a tremen- dous partnership possible between our games cluster and the military," Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton says. As a member of the N.C. Economic Development Board and the N.C. Advisory Commission on Military Affairs, Dalton knows both industries. "The military embraces these technologies aggressively. As a state, that's where our leadership position is likely going to be."

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