In the News: Hart County is home to National Champions: Technology Student Association video game team takes title

Hart County High Shool is
home to a team of national champions.

The Hart County Technology Student Association (TSA) recently attended the association’s nationwide conference in National Harbor, Md. — returning one team as national champions, along with several top-finishers.

“It’s a great group of kids. I was proud of them. It’s the first national title for TSA and it was exciting to see it,” TSA advisor Greg Gaines said.

The video game design team — consisting of   Chandler Phillips, A.J. Johnson, Erik Blomberg and Chase Jorensen — earned first place in the country for their role-playing game titled “Wormwood.”

“You clean up this town after a nuclear reactor explodes,” Phillips said about the premise of the game.

The concept of the game is based on the events of Chernobyl, an infamous nuclear disaster occurring in the Soviet Union in 1986.

“We like Chernobyl and we know a little bit about it so that’s what we decided to do,” Johnson said.

“It was before they released the show (an HBO limited series), so it was like perfect timing,” Phillips added.

Wormwood is a virtual reality game, utilizing a headset for simulation, which is one reason the team members think they earned first place.

“It has a computer version, but the VR (virtual reality) is probably what got first place,” Phillips said.

However, the award-winning game didn’t develop overnight. Team members said they started working on the game in September of 2018.

“Everyday everyone probably put in an hour on average. Some days more than that,” Johnson said. “Some days it was four or five hours.”

TSA advisor Rob Elliott said they plan to put the game on Oculus Home, a virtual reality platform, within the next couple of weeks.

“We tell them we’re a student team and they give it away for free,” Eliott said. “I think we’ll get a lot of exposure, so the next game we make we might be able to sell.”

The national champs said they hope to defend their title next year.

“We want to keep that ‘reigning champs,’” Blomberg said.

Video game design team members weren’t the only local students honored at the conference. Adam Walters received recognition for winning the state pin design competition, and distributed the pins at the conference.

“It was pretty cool because that was the first time that I ever entered any sort of graphic design competition,” Walters said. “Being able to win, it kind of really sparked my interest and actually seeing it in person, seeing all the people pass it around ... it was just an unreal experience just seeing something I made mass distributed to people all over the nation.”

A pair of young minds also earned top-10 recognition at the TSA National Conference. Hart County Middle School students Cassidy Gaines and Peyton Gaines took home ninth place honors in web design.

The pair built a website for an escape room called “The Escape Zone.”

“It feels pretty cool because we’ve never made it on stage before,” Cassidy said about the award.
“I was just excited to go on stage,” Peyton added. “It was unreal.”