From designers to programmers to educators… we LOVE the team we work with at Little Robot Friends. They are the heart of everything we do here and we thought you might like to meet some of them!
This Meet Our Team series will feature an interview with one of our team members every week. First up is Shirina, who was interviewed by our summer intern Kirsten.
Meet Shirina, our Game Designer and former elementary school teacher!
Kirsten: Hey Shirina! To begin with, what do you do at Little Robot Friends?
Shirina: My role here is Game Designer and 3D artist, I help to create the story and puzzles for Secret of the Source Code, a new learn-to-code game we are building here at LRF. I also design the 3D scenes in the world of Memoria!
K: Oh that’s awesome. And I heard you were an educator even before joining the team?
S: Yes! Before I was working here, I was actually a teacher. I taught grade 1 for a little over three years, which included core subjects as well as Art, technology and Phys. Ed. When I started here, at Little Robot Friends, I was responsible for teaching coding workshops, where I incorporated many of my teaching practices. I then moved onto game design when Mark and Ann started development on Secret of the Source Code.
K: I’m going to throw out a random question here for you. If you could grow up in any decade, which would you choose and why?
S: Haha. Probably for me, it would be the future just to see what it would be like. What would the world look like 10 or 30 years from now? I’d be curious about what technology is used, what does AR look like, what does VR look like, and stuff like that.
K: I love that answer. We’re all curious about the future. So, back to what you do at Little Robot Friends… what’s the most challenging part of your job and the most rewarding part?
S: The most challenging part for me is finding a way to balance the education side in Secret of the Source Code with how to make it fun and keep people hooked into the story that we are telling. We want to help kids learn and teach them core coding concepts, and a lot of other games and companies do that. But how do you do it in a fun and engaging way for the kids? That’s always what we ask ourselves when we’re creating educational content here.
In terms of what’s most rewarding… I love telling a story, some of the best lessons we learn come from the stories that are meaningful to us. Solving puzzles and learning new skills are important, but the story and characters also help engage us. They show us how we can use what we learn to effect the world around us.
K: Can you tell us your favourite story from working with kids, as a school teacher or elsewhere?
S: I think most of them have to do with the “a-ha” moment when a kid is trying to understand a difficult concept. When it clicks, when they figure out the puzzle or how to solve the problem... you see the excitement, the "a-ha... I get it now!" Their motivation for what they are learning changes after that, because they understand it better.
Another story that comes to mind is during my education program. I had originally planned on teaching a writing lesson for language arts, but after recess kids were coming in and there was all this excitement. It turned out that we were experiencing some extremely windy weather and all the kids were convinced there was a tornado outside. They were having arguments about whether it was a tornado or not and it was just pure chaos… and I was sitting there with my lesson prepared, wondering how I was going to focus my student's attention to the subject at hand.
So instead I decided to use this as a teachable moment and we had a discussion on weather forecasting. We talked about how tornadoes form and what they looked like. Then we did a little writing exercise about what we had experienced, what we learned and how it changed our understanding. A day of bad weather in Alberta became a teachable moment. I just love those moments when kids get very excited about a topic and they’re genuinely interested in learning about it.
K: I love how you turned that into a lesson. That’s awesome. Okay, one final question… What was your dream career as a kid?
S: Well, if you were to ask me when I was in grade one, I would have said a performer because I like to make people laugh and I was a bit of a class clown. I didn’t figure out that I wanted to be an educator until I was in university. I was in a course that focused on teaching the arts, not just on its own, but also in an integrated approach within all subjects. That course inspired me to pursue teaching in a way that included the arts, that included storytelling.
K: Shirina, thank you so much! It was really nice learning about what you do and your journey as an educator turned game designer.
S: Of course! Thanks for chatting with me!
Shirina is one of the brains behind our brand new product: Secret of the Source Code, a learn-to-code online course delivered as a game for kids age 7 and up! It is being released privately for now. If you'd like to follow along the Secret of the Source Code adventure and behind the scenes, you can sign up at our website.