This expert gamer has graduated from playing Pokémon® Stadium and the original Sims™ game to creating simulated training systems for the U.S. Navy.
By Rhonda Hewitt
In a way, Kayla’s older brother is responsible for her success as a software developer. As a youngster Kayla would tag along with him when he visited friends and to keep her occupied, they would let her play Pokémon® Stadium on the Nintendo 64®, or the original Sims™ game. It was here that she developed a love for gaming.
“I was 7 years old, and I really liked the replay ability of the games,” said Kayla. “Plus, I found I was pretty good with solving problems and puzzles.”
Through the years her interest in gaming grew, and when she was ready to head to college, her mother suggested that she explore game design as a major.
Kayla graduated from George Mason University with a bachelor’s degree in game design, where she studied the artistic components of computer game design while learning technical skills.
From Gaming to Developing Simulated Combat Training
A friend and Northrop Grumman employee, Chrysantus, suggested that she explore opportunities at the company. Kayla applied and three years ago was hired as a software developer supporting the PC-based Open-Architecture for Reconfigurable Training Systems (PORTS) program in Middletown, Rhode Island.
“We build simulation-based training systems for the U.S. Navy, specifically for surface ships — destroyers, cruisers, aircraft carriers,” said Sue, PORTS project manager. “In a nutshell, we replicate the displays and controls of the tactical consoles and put enough math and science in the background so that the simulated consoles work the same as they do on the ship.”
“In a nutshell, we replicate the displays and controls of the tactical consoles and put enough math and science in the background so that the simulated consoles work the same as they do on the ship.”
—Kayla, Software Developer
This way, student sailors can learn how to do their jobs and practice multiple times to build proficiency.
“Our training devices are hosted on regular PCs with up to five monitors and delivered to Navy classrooms and labs,” said Sue. “The instructor can create and control a scenario — ships, planes and submarines, all moving around a geographic area — and influence the students by injecting fault and casualty conditions for them to work through.”
In her role, Kayla creates 2D graphical interfaces.
“These interfaces encompass everything from identifying another ship and communicating that with your fellow crew members to targeting a hostile ship, going through all the steps necessary to prepare for combat — loading weapons and getting authorization from superiors — and actually firing at an enemy ship,” said Kayla. “For me, this is a perfect position because I can teach the sailors how to use their ships in a fun, exciting and interactive way.”
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