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Teens aim to make a difference with video games

Tuesday - 4/24/2012, 7:44am  ET

Nathan Hager, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A team of local high school students is out to prove that video games aren't a waste of time -- and, in fact, can make a difference. The teens are doing so by designing their own game.

"Digital Infinity" is the moniker of a group of four tech-savvy students at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Md.

Their computer game, "Electra Hope," took second place honors at Microsoft's Imagine Cup 2012 in the "Game Design: X-Box" category.

Check out a demo of Springbrook High's game here:

The honor is even more impressive considering "Digital Infinity" was the only high school team in a contest dominated by college-age game designers.

"It's like being an actual developer, which I feel we actually are now," team member David Rodriguez said in a webcast from the competition at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

Imagine Cup bills itself as the premier student technology competition. It's theme is "Imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems."

Teams were encouraged to draw inspiration from the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

The team from Springbrook drew inspiration from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to create a game in which players buy and build electricity-generating waterwheels and solar panels for a devastated village.

The teens designed the game for personal computers and Microsoft's X-Box console, but they hope to expand it to smartphones, tablet computers and personal computers equipped with Windows 8.

They also hope to inspire their fellow students back home in Silver Spring.

"These guys have worked really hard," says team mentor Pat Yongpradit. "I mean, they have after-school activities; they have homework and the other six courses that they take. But with hard work and a lot of time and effort from the mentor as well as the kids, you can get to this."

The overall winner of the Imagine Cup goes on to compete at the worldwide competition in Sydney, Australia.

But the U.S. competition continues online, with supporters of each team encouraged to vote in the People's Choice Awards. That contest continues through May 19.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)