“The program … took my hobby and elevated it.”
Inside the Academic Commons, Autumn Powers ’27 and Robert Matzkin ’26 were glued to their computer screens working intensely on a game. As they meticulously coded, they imagined a life in the gaming industry. Later, they settled in at their residence hall rooms.
This all happened before they were official Clark students.
Powers and Matzkin are among the current Clark students who, while they were in high school, participated in Clark’s summer coding-intensive camp. The program is for high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing game design in higher education and is meant to offer a taste of what it’s like to be in college.
“The program itself was relaxed in a way that made me feel like I could learn with no pressure. I could tell that the people teaching us knew their craft. It took my hobby and elevated it,” says Powers, an interactive media major.
Program director Donald Desrochers says 15 students participated in the camp in 2023, an increase from nine high schoolers in 2022. Of the nine from 2022, six are current Clarkies, including Matzkin and Powers, who attended the camp as a high school senior and junior, respectively.
“I think it’s really important for students to have an opportunity to test out this field before attending school,” Desrochers says. “They have a chance to figure out if they really want to do this.”
The program taught Powers and Matzkin the foundations of game design and jump-started their passion for it.
“The camp prepared me to live in a social environment with lots of people and gave me a pretty good idea of how a class would feel,” Powers says. “Now being at Clark, I love the community. Everyone is extremely helpful and supports me as a student and as a person.”
Clark was already on the radar for both students; the summer program was an added incentive to take classes in Clark’s Becker School of Design & Technology. Powers, a Leicester, Massachusetts, native, was excited to attend college so close to her home. Matzkins, who hails from Armenia, had looked at a number of international programs before deciding to combine his love of computers and games at Clark.
“From an early age I was interested in computers and coding,” says Matzkins, a computer science major. “As I’ve grown up, I’ve tried to narrow that interest into one field to pursue. It turns out that my love for games and childhood passion mix very well together.” The coding program felt different than typical college classes because of its collaborative nature, he notes.
The summer experience offers an opportunity for students to acclimate to college life before they arrive on campus as first-year Clarkies. Powers and Matzkins got to live in a residence hall, meet new people, and soak in the college atmosphere.
The camp concluded with a showcase in which students presented their final creation to friends and family.
“I’ve wanted to work in the games industry for a long time,” Powers says, “so having this opportunity to explore game design and apply my interest to a relevant team project was very rewarding.”