Viz professor to join National Academy of Sciences board

Learn more about Arté Mecenas and [Variant] ( .

André Thomas, a member of the Texas A&M Department of Visualization faculty who is leading an effort to establish video games as an educational tool in universities and high schools, has been tapped to join the advisory board of the [National Academy of Sciences] ( [Koshland Public Engagement Program] ( , which seeks to raise awareness among scientists and science communicators about the importance of effective, public engagement.

The academy is a nonprofit society of distinguished scholars who provide independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology.

“This appointment is a validation from the highest levels of academia that high-quality, research-based video games are revolutionizing education,” said Thomas, who led the development of [two video games] ( , “ARTé Mecenas,” and “Variant,” that are now part of art history and calculus curricula at more than 200 universities. This fall, a Belgium-based network of educators is testing the games for possible use in European high schools.

Both games were conceived and initially developed by students and faculty in the [Department of Visualization] ( ’s [Learning Interactive Visualizations Experience Lab] ( , or LIVE Lab, a unit founded by Thomas that includes faculty and student designers, coders, and educational specialists from a variety of disciplines who, in collaboration with the videogame industry, create and champion interactive educational software.

The games were then further developed and tested by [Triseum] ( , a Bryan educational video game development company also founded and led by Thomas.

He joined the Texas A&M faculty in 2014 after leading graphics development, planning and implementation for EA Sports’ powerhouse lineup of football videogames for seven years.

“His work at EA was at the highest end of graphics realism and interactive environments and characters,” said Department of Visualization head Tim McLaughlin.

An expert in digital content creation and software development with more than 20 years of experience in all aspects of computer-generated imagery, Thomas led a multidisciplinary team of software engineers, graphic artists and project managers at EA Sports, making yearly improvements to EA’s [Madden] ( video game, what Rant Sports calls the industry’s most successful sports video game franchise, and the rest of EA’s football lineup: [NCAA Football] ( , [Head Coach] ( , NFL Tour and [NFL Arcade] ( .

Richard Nira

posted September 13, 2017