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April 12, 2011
By Misha Ray
Students from the University of Nevada, Reno continue to accomplish great things and Aaron Eastburg is one of those students.
Microsoft Licensing recently held a competition for students to come up with and create an application for the Windows Phone 7 (WP7). Eastburg, a computer science major, enrolled in the competition with the hopes of creating a fun, interactive app.
“I had the idea of making a game, because everyone likes games,” Eastburg said. “I really like the creative side of programming.”
Eastburg’s app was selected as the winner of the competition in February and was announced last month at a large event at the Microsoft Reno headquarters. He received a WP7 device for the successful design.
Michael McMahon, the computer science adviser and programmer for the University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, was excited to see Microsoft offer this competition to students.
“The CSE department was very happy that Microsoft reached out to the students and that so many of them responded with participation,” McMahon said. “This was a wonderful, graphical illustration of how driven some of our students can be, and the cutting-edge software they can develop when given an opportunity.”
Eastburg’s game, Squid Squish, is an underwater-themed slingshot game which has now been published to the Windows Marketplace under the name “Squid Squish Lite.”
“The player uses his thumb to launch squid from a coral or seaweed slingshot at fish and other sea life making sure not to let any get by,” Eastburg said. “There will be a small variety of challenges for the player to complete with a twist in game mechanics for each. It features some really cute graphics and great audio done by my teammates.”
Eastburg was assisted by two teammates from Las Vegas, Hettie Zhang who designed the characters and John Colombo who created the audio.
McMahon believes the user experience provided by this game “stood out above the other applications.”
“Aaron and his team developed the best Windows Phone 7 application of the competing teams,” said McMahon. “Squid Squish showed excellent planning, design and development. The game premise, the graphics, the interaction, the interface itself and the use of touch – everything was brought together very nicely by his application.”
Microsoft's Academic Developer Evangelist for Northern California, Kenny Spade, helped Eastburg’s team prepare the app for market and said he was impressed by the professional quality of the app.
“The first thing that struck me when I saw the screenshots of Squid Squish for the first time is how polished it was,” Spade said. It wasn’t simply an idea that could turn into a great game, but something I would expect to see on the list of top sellers in the Marketplace.”
Spade also said their high-quality work was key in getting the app ready for market.
“When Aaron and I went through the certification process to see what would need to be changed to prepare his game, there was very little left to be done,” he said. “For having never worked with the Windows Phone, never having held a device, and not having published an application, they were more ready to go at the end of this competition than many professional developers I work with.”
Eastburg hopes to continue to create fun computer programs. He hopes his career will allow him to work with both computer programming and art. Squid Squish can be downloaded on any WP7 device from the Windows Marketplace or any computer which has the Zune Marketplace software, simply search the name “Squid Squish Lite.”