When Anna Dai and Efrain Segarra signed up to take an entry-level computer engineering course at University of Michigan, they expected to learn about game software development.
What they did not expect was to find themselves taking gaming to a whole new level through a massive project at U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Thanks to their efforts – along with the generosity of dozens of other individuals and groups – patients at Mott will now find their room equipped with an Xbox 360.
Out of the classroom, into the real world
Efrain Segarra was a freshman when he took Professor David Chesney’s course.
“Dr. Chesney calls it Gaming for the Greater Good,” says Segarra, referring to the course’s focus on developing software that can benefit children with disabilities.
Children with craniofacial anomalies spend a great deal of time in their doctor’s office being evaluated and treated. Every visit involves having photographs taken. Not fun pictures. Not even school headshots. But pictures focused on their facial differences.
It’s what is sometimes called the “clinical gaze.” We are carefully examining their facial differences, focusing on them and working to help fix them. In a way, it can be depersonalizing even though my colleagues and I at the Craniofacial Anomalies Program work hard to connect with the children in ways other than their facial differences.
My colleagues and I wanted to do something to give the kids back the magic and fun that kids should feel with the idea of having their photos taken. I’d heard about a project where kids with craniofacial anomalies were paired with artists to have portraits painted, and was struck by how powerful it was for the children to have these immense portraits painted of them. We wanted to give our patients a taste of that experience, but also to give them the gift finding beauty – whatever that is to them – through their own lens.
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