UIT Student Worker Helps Design Winning Anti-Poverty Game for Microsoft

Jack Chaiyakhom, a student worker in Web Technologies at University Information Technology (UIT), placed in the annual Microsoft Imagine Cup Competition section held for game designers. The overall competition encourages young people to use computing technologies to solve world problems.

Jack's team, named Righteous Noodle, took third place in the competition. They were among 90 students from 22 U.S. finalist teams who were selected to compete in person in several sections in Seattle. Some 1,500 teams submitted projects and 74,000 people registered for the competition, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

Righteous Noodle, made up of computer science students from UH, won $2,000. For its win, the group created a game that challenges players to end poverty with the use of advanced technology. Research Assistant Professor Chang Yun served as advisor for the team. Yun's department trains young people for a thriving Texas industry that creates computer games. Each of the team members also won a Windows Phone 7.

Competing at Seattle was a special experience for Jack. "My team – Righteous Noodle – won third place in the game design category for the PC/Xbox platform," he explained. "We created a real-time strategy game that puts the player in control of a poverty relief effort. The main point of the game is to send a message that poverty can only be stopped by economic sustainability. The purpose is to teach a person how to fish instead of giving him a fish.''

Jack was born in Phitsanulok, a northern province of Thailand, and grew up in a rural area outside Bangkok. Memories of Thailand haunt him. "I’ve been to many parts of Thailand affected by poverty,” he said. "Generally, when people cannot afford to live, some of them resort to supporting crime. Human trafficking (which affects Thailand) relates directly to poverty. Many of those who do not turn to crime cannot eat and are prone to diseases that could be easily treated in the U.S. According to the United Nations (U.N.), every four seconds a person dies from starvation. That is one of the reasons poverty is a U.N. Millennium Goal to be ended by 2015."

Although he moved to Houston with his family in 2001, images of Thailand continue to influence Jack, and he wants to help the people of the country. Doing so requires talent, knowledge, and dedication. In high school, Jack began designing web sites. He routinely developed applications using graphics and web software, including Adobe Flash and PHP. Next fall, Jack expects to complete studies for his bachelor's degree in computer science at UH.

He began attending UH in 2007 and helped work his way through college by serving as a web developer for the UH Department of Campus Recreation for three years. He learned to develop games.

Currently at Web Technologies, he assists in designing, developing and updating a variety of UH web sites. These days he frequently completes his work by using a content management system and video game design strategies.

With these skills he designed the winning game that teaches those in the developed world about poverty. Jack hopes it will help stimulate positive change.

Aside from his interest in technology, Jack also likes to do photography and studies philosophy. "I’ve taken many photos at UH," Jack said. These include an artistic view of a major science building.

Jack’s game, “Eva Frontier,” may be played by going to the following link: http://www.mediafire.com/?0by0w47un79pgu7