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Very merry co-op experience

By Heidi Wicks

Computer science co-op student Justin Butt is happy playing games all day long. Well, making games all day long.

Mr. Butt will be featured in an upcoming video on the university's social media sites and teaching and learning blog, teachingandlearning.mun.ca.

During his field placement at Bestboy Media in St. John's, Mr. Butt is making video games for a living, while simultaneously gearing up for the holidays by being involved in the app programming for Yule Tree – the first augmented reality Christmas app. Users can decorate their tree with a selection of 36 festive ornaments, including twinkling lights, stars, snowmen, bulbs, bells or even an animated toy train. They can then show off their creation to anyone looking to escape the rigors of the workday by imagining they're sitting in front of the Christmas tree.

He says that being able to supplement his education in the classroom with co-op placements allows him to apply theory to the real world.

Dylan Fries, Mr. Butt's supervisor and lead developer at Bestboy Media, says they'll be hiring co-op students from Memorial again in the future, because they bring a fresh perspective to projects.

"Getting young people who are very involved in the products we're making is invaluable," he said. "We make games, they know games. We're doing social media, they know social media. You can't hire someone with 20 years of experience that these guys do naturally. I have a thing for underdogs too. You just throw these guys in and watch them swim. It's exciting for the company to train these guys in, and at the end of term have them ready for the industry."
Rebecca Newhook is co-op coordinator for the faculties of arts and science. Ms. Newhook says co-op mirrors the usual employee/employer relationship as much as possible.

"There's an added level of maturity," Ms. Newhook said. "I usually find when I visit a student in the work place that they are more confident than before, likely because they feel out of their element during the job search, but once they're working they see fairly quickly that they can be productive and valuable members of their team, and they've made some fantastic contacts."

Dr. Peter Rans, director, Division of Co-operative Education, is thrilled with the value current students are getting from the program.

"We are continuing to create programs in more disciplines so that more students are able to have these hands-on experiences," he said. "Co-op works. It provides students with new networks, learning experiences beyond the campus and paid placements in professional settings. We believe in the value that these kinds of experiences contribute to students' education and long-term employment."

The video will be available for viewing at teachingandlearning.mun.ca in the coming week. Yule Tree is available on the iPhone and iPad App Stores, or on the website (yuletreapp.com). For more information on Bestboy Media, visit their site at www.bestboy.ca.

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