The digital monkey scurried across the screen, lifted the dancing banana, and Anderson Fernandez laughed.
“Wasn’t that simple?” Fernandez asked his class of teenagers.
“I thought it would be harder,” said Quay Freeman, 15.
The monkey reaching the banana was the primary objective of “Banana Apocalypse,” a smartphone application created by the students as part of App Invention, a 16-hour class offered at Central Texas College to students between the ages of 14 and 16.
The class was part of the GEAR UP program, designed
to keep young Americans in school and set them on the right path for college.
Fernandez used a website developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to teach his students basic programming skills. Over the course of the week, the class
designed several apps, including one that translated a sentence from English to Spanish.
While designing an app without a website would be significantly more complicated, Fernandez said the class was a good introduction to a potential career in video game design.
Later several students said they were interested in pursuing a career in the field.
“A lot of kids their age don’t know what they want to do,” Fernandez said.
“Maybe they’ll see how cool something like this is and be sure that’s what they want to be their career. And they’re hiring lots of designers in Austin right now.”
“Game” was the keyword in catching students’ attention and can be a challenge, Fernandez said.
“It gets them excited, interested,” he said. “I try to get them working on something they may want to touch later.”