On the even of his graduation, Bill Aiken reflects on his Penn State Altoona experiences
Bill Aiken, a security and risk analysis major has made the most of his time at Penn State Altoona. The Altoona native will graduate this semester as a Schreyer Honors College Scholar. During his years at the college, Aiken has excelled in his area of study while picking up skills that led to him developing his own business venture and winning the Pechter Business Plan Competition.
My major is a lot fun: it enabled me to do a lot of other computer science-related things in my free time, that weren't a part of the security and risk analysis program itself, but I picked them up along the way and really enjoyed it. I like writing programs for computer games. When I found out about the 2014-15 Pechter Business Plan Competition, I thought I should throw my hat in the ring. I wanted to create a game and possibly do something with it long-term. So I developed Killer Cereal Games.
It is a business that makes retro style games. A lot of indie developers now try to make their games retro style, like pixel art. But they don't make them to fit the hardware of the time. You can run games from a decade ago on old hardware, but games made now will not. My goal is to get the look, feel, and guts to be that retro style.
My team ended up winning the Pechter Business Competition in spring 2015 which came with a $5,000 award. The other members aren't involved anymore, but the money has allowed me to buy some older hardware that is rare and expensive. I was able to play around with that hardware and program for the Dreamcast, an old Sega console, and the Gameboy Advance and DS.
I developed a lot of skills through that project, and I'm still working on parts of it, such as the art work and gameplay. I'm going to be getting some books on game architecture and I think that's going to motivate me to finish it. There will be significant changes to the look and the feel of the game, but the core of the engine should remain the same. There are a couple of different gaming communities online that stay close to the old hardware. There is an audience for this; even if it's not a huge one, this project is something I really want to continue.
I'm leaving for graduate school in South Korea in August. I'm attending Sungkyunkwan University for a master's in computer science, where I spent three weeks last summer with Dr. Jungwoo. I learned so much. The work ethic of the people there is different as is their approach to writing graduate papers and the motivation to learn. I am excited to return and get involved in what they're doing. For example, one student was working on a reverse engineering project. We then wrote a paper on the implications of it and services that could be vulnerable. I want to continue with that work while I'm there.
I'm really happy with my experience here at Penn State Altoona. The best part of it was that the professors will do anything for their students. They'll work with you outside of the class, on any projects that you're working on or they're working on. They'll bring you in on research, even as undergrads. They make a lot of effort to get you to work on things that are more business- related instead of the academic side, even though sometimes that might not be what is prescribed. They do their best to incorporate practical skills into the education. As much as I value self-motivation, without their help, I wouldn't have been quite as successful. They actually care and take a personal interest in you and your success. And my mom, who works here, has helped a lot. Sometimes when it was the middle of the day and I had three meetings and a bunch of classes and I hated all of it, we would take a walk and I felt better. I'd think to myself, "it's okay, I can make it."