Anthony Ortega – Production Coordinator for the Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies

Getting to know the people appearing on the EDGE of EXTINCTION Human cards.

Anthony found the girls on Facebook and liked their page back in its infancy. He labels himself as a game designer, but he is truly an educational game guru.

Athia and Maia were looking for more experience in game development a few years ago and Anthony found out about it and invited us down as guests to see the Harrisburg University of Science and Tech’s Game Development Studio. It was quite a fun time for us. The girls were invited to a lunch with some of the schools’ leadership and professors. They were asked questions about their games and their goals as a company. Then Anthony’s students learned to play EDGE of EXTINCTION while the girls fielded questions.

Maia Strohm using a VR simulator at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology

Maia playing an archery game in the VR Room

I think the coolest part for us what the invitation itself, but Maia and Athia said it was their Virtual Reality Simulator … They may be right.

So without further ado, here is Anthony Ortega’s questions and answers.

What is your full name and title?
Anthony Ortega. Production Coordinator for the Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies as well as Corporate Faculty for the Interactive Media Program, both for Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Where do you work and reside?
I work live and work in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

What is your educational background?
I have a BFA in Illustration from Pennsylvania College of Art & Design and an MET in Entertainment Technology from Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center.

What was your life like growing up?
It’s kind of hard to encapsulate what I was like growing up without devoting an entire essay to it. The biggest interests that have persisted throughout my life are horror / supernatural themed entertainment, games, martial arts, the visual arts, music, and a huge love for animals.

Did you have a nickname? If so, how did it come about?
I’ve had quite a few, some less appealing than others. It all depended on who was communicating with me but it was usually a silly variation on my name: Tony tone, Toner, Tony Toenail, Tony Roma, Tone Bone, Tony Bologna, Tony Tone Toni, Aunt Tony, and Antny being the most common.

Anthony Ortega is a Human Card in EDGE of EXTINCTION: The Educational Trading Card GameWhat are you currently reading? Why?
You can generally find me reading the rulebook to a tabletop game. Otherwise, I’m currently working through Homer’s Iliad and an anthology of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories.

What are you curious about or exploring in your field of expertise at the moment?
My passion is game design, so I design tabletop games in my spare time. Currently I have a design being considered for publication by two different publishers. I currently also have about five designs I’m actively working on.

What is your favorite Movie? Why?
If I judge by how often I went to the theater to watch it, it would have to be The Matrix (6 times total). Otherwise, I’m drawn to movies that have unique and surreal stories and an amazing soundtrack to complement it, and the top two movies that always stand out in that respect are Donnie Darko and Being John Malkovich. They just harmonize with me no other movie has and I think a lot of it has to do with the struggles I was going through (and in some ways still am going through) at the time that I saw them.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your profession?
Patience and perseverance are key when it comes to game development. If you care about an engaging experience, you need to give your designs time to evolve and grow. With that comes the necessary discipline to see a design through to the end.

What is your least favorite subject? Why?
My eyes glaze over whenever it comes to historical wars and politics. I grew up not caring, even though I should have, but that indifference has spilled into my adult life where it’s very helpful to understand these things.

What advise you to offer to parents who want to help their children get involved with the natural world?
What’s nice about the natural world is that it always finds its way into everyday life. From the plants that grow in between cracks, to the bugs that live in the dark, damp nooks and crannies of your yard, to the stars in the night sky; there is always an opportunity to learn a little more. You just need to want to be curious. Sometimes it’s just watching a bird for a few minutes, or staring at the bark of a tree until you start seeing the different kinds of insects on its surface. I think encouraging natural curiosity is the first step to being more involved with the natural world, especially since science has everything to do with the natural world, such as robots being modeled after insects.

To what teams and/or clubs did you encourage students to join?
I think students should join clubs that speak to their inner passions, whether that’s gaming, exercising, music, survival, rock climbing, religion, or whatever. When you’re allowed to explore your passions, it makes it more rewarding to connect it to the world around you.

Is there a daily routine you enjoy?
There is a routine, although it’s more out of necessity right now. I know the ideal routine that I want, but I don’t have the discipline to get me there yet.

How do you integrate technology in your profession?
Technology is kind of a subjective term. A six sided die is technology, as well as a pen. As a teacher and employee of a science and technology school, I’m using modern technology every day to communicate information to students, colleagues, and clients, but I challenge a student’s critical thinking by using older technology (dice and playing cards) to create engaging games.

How do you disconnect from technology?
First and foremost, tabletop games. I used to be a hardcore video gamer but I feel I’ve become saturated by what digital has to offer. I’ve found a richness and comforting variance in the tactical nature of tabletop games that has actually triggered my interest in designing them. Outside of that, nothing beats standing outside on a windy day in autumn, watching the sun fall in the sky and tinting the autumn colored leaves with its fading light while thick clouds stroll in the sky.

Anthony Ortega

Anthony Ortega at HU

What advice would you offer nature-lovers who live in large cities?
Life lives everywhere and can adapt to live anywhere. Be curious about the microsystems around you, like the bugs and the birds. Plant a small herb garden on your window sill or get a bird feeder. Even having a variety of plants in your house is enough to change the air quality, and the Zen that comes with taking care of plants can instill a sense of nature in a concrete jungle.

What advice would you offer nature-lovers who live in rural areas?
My sense is that people in rural areas already enjoy nature to some degree. You have greater access to the results of natural systems following through with their methods, so it’s just a matter of taking the time to seek them out and appreciate them.

What advice would you give to adults who are interested in supporting their local wildlife ecosystems?
The biggest support we can offer our local ecosystems is keeping our own influence in check. We are reducing habitable wildlife zones at an increasing rate, so reducing our litter, using less plastic and other synthetic non-biodegradable substances, and quietly observing from a distance are some of the best things we can do to give our natural neighbors some respite from a world that is constantly encroaching on their territory. We all share this planet, so doing what we can to educate ourselves, reduce our carbon emissions, and slow the pace of climate change is the greatest support we can give, especially if we want future generations to be able to appreciate when we’re gone.

Are there specific wildlife or science clubs you find interesting? Why?
The ocean holds a deep place in my heart for its mystery and frailty. We’ve recently discovered that not a single animal living in the deepest part of the ocean is without plastic in its digestive system, yet there are still species we’ve yet to discover. The way animals of the ocean have evolved continues to astound me and it would be an absolute shame for vast species of creatures to disappear due to our inability to adapt our wants with the planet’s needs.

What could a visitor expect to see when they come to visit you at work?
We are a young university working very hard to become a world class science and technology school. We are focused on turning students into responsible world citizens and ambitious innovators who want to make a difference in their communities. You would also see a lot of cool technology in our Interactive Media program.

What are your thoughts about our national park and preserve systems?
Our national parks and preserve systems are great treasures that should remain intact and should grow too much larger footprints in order to help sustain our natural wildlife.

Is there anything else you want to share or say?
What future do you want for the next generations of global citizens?

Donna Beer Stolz, Ph.D. – Associate professor of Cell Biology

Getting to know the people appearing on the EDGE of EXTINCTION Human cards.

If I remember correctly Donna wasn’t sure if she was interested when I initially asked, so I had to send in the big guns and asked Athia to hike a bit with her.

The Baker Trail Gang

Donna is Second from the left.

After a few miles of chatting, she was on board. We are glad to have her in the game and along the trail. Donna has a knowledge of the natural world I find refreshing. We talk about many of the species we find along the trail when hiking.

Below are a few questions we asked Donna along with her responses.

What is your full name and title? Donna Beer Stolz, Ph.D., Associate professor of Cell Biology, Associate Director of the Center for Biologic Imaging

Where do you work and reside? I work at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. I live in Glenshaw (Shaler), PA

What is your educational background? I have a BS in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology, both degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

What was your life like growing up? I grew up in rural north central Massachusetts, close to the New Hampshire border but about 1 hr away from Boston. Our property bordered on a dairy farm. My sister and I would spend a lot of time outdoors every season, playing outside in the streams, ponds, with the cows, my friends horses, playing hide and seek in the hayloft at the dairy farm, riding our bikes to our grandmother’s house, about 2 miles away. I loved to collect insects with my dad. I also liked to sew. In the winter we loved to ski, skate and go sledding and tobogganing.

Human Microbiologist CardDid you have a nickname? If so, how did it come about? My math teacher in middle school called me “Big D” since I never wrote out my first name on assignments. When I was a ski bum in Vermont all my friends called be DB. They still do.

What are you currently reading? Why? I’m re-reading the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. I’m re-reading because I was asked to give a keynote lecture for The Community College of Allegheny County, One College One Community Reads and that is the book they are all reading this year.  I have curated a couple art shows that depicted the HeLa cells derived from Henrietta Lacks’ cancerous tumor using many different types of microscopy.

What are you curious about or exploring in your field of expertise at the moment? Correlative Light and Electron Microscopy

What is your favorite Movie? Why? I have 2: Tonari no totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) a Japanese animated film by Hayao Miyazaki. It reminds me when I was a kid and I spent so much time the woods. My other favorite movie is “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your profession? Curiosity and Creativity

What is your least favorite subject? Why? Political Science…because it’s not science.

What advise you to offer to parents who want to help their children get involved with the natural world? Go outside with them. Do outside projects together. Go birdwatching, collect bugs, look for flowers and try and identify them. Get field guides and use them.

How do you disconnect from technology? Hiking/backpacking/knitting

What advice would you give to adults who are interested in supporting their local wildlife ecosystems? Get involved.

Are there specific wildlife or science clubs you find interesting? Why? The Audubon Society for the work they do with birds.

What could a visitor expect to see when they come to visit you at work? I will be helping (scientists, students) try and understand what they are seeing in their samples when they look under microscopes. I also help scientists understand how to set up an experiment using microscopes to answer specific questions.

What are your thoughts about our national park and preserve systems? We are very lucky to have open green protected areas that everyone can enjoy.

Is there anything else you want to share or say?

Donna Beer Stolz. Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Cell Biology

Associate Director, Center for Biologic Imaging

University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA 15261

Dale Luthringer – Environmental Education Specialist

Getting to know the people appearing on the EDGE of EXTINCTION Human cards.

Dale Luthringer is the Wild card in the Nature Bites Back expansion pack for WILD: North East North AmericaWe first met Dale while visiting Cook Forest State Park. The girls had finished their first game, WILD: North East North America, and we were looking for educators who would include it in their teaching materials. Dale accepted a couple games and reviewed it with us so he knew how to play the game.

Six different schools tested the WILD game that year and their feedback indicated a desire for more cards or expansion packs. We connected with several people to make that happen including Dale. In our “Nature Bites Back” expansion pack, Dale was the wild card.

A year or so later, I caught him between events and shared with him the girls’ second game, EDGE of EXTINCTION: The Educational Trading Card Game. He accepted a few starter decks and took a minute to look over the Allegheny National Forest Starter Deck. After a few minutes of talking, he agreed to be a part of the game, and sent me a photo of himself next to one of Cook Forest’s largest trees.

Dale Luthringer is the face of the Ranger cardThe girls got busy coming up with ideas for his Human card later that day. We had a card that would take out the human cards one-by-one (Man-Eater card) but we didn’t know how to remove that card once it was played… So Dale, being a park ranger as well as an educator, became the face of the “Ranger” card.

We asked Dale a few questions about who he is and what he does. Here are his responses.

What is your full name and title?

Dale Luthringer – environmental education specialist

Where do you work and reside?

Cook Forest State Park, Cooksburg, PA

What is your educational background?

A.S. Wildlife Technology from Penn State DuBois, B.S. Biology from Clarion University

What are you currently reading? Why?

The Conquerors: A Narrative by Alan Eckert.  It’s a French & Indian through Pontiacs Rebellion era historical narrative through.  I’m always reading history to help improve my living history portrayals in the French & Indian, Civil War, and lumber history eras.

The Bible.  Proverbs 9:10              “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and acknowledging the Holy One is understanding.”

What are you curious about or exploring in your field of expertise at the moment?

Always curious in exploring and documenting previously undescribed old growth forests and big/tall tree sites.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your profession?

Never giving up, persistence, and honesty.

What advise you to offer to parents who want to help their children get involved with the natural world?

Get out with your kids and experience the outdoors.  You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy nature.  It’s a continual learning experience and a great time to share and grow together with your kids.  You’ll be surprised the discoveries you’ll make together.

How do you integrate technology in your profession?

I try to integrate the latest in tree measuring technology with the use of laser rangefinders, clinometers, tapes, and calipers.  It’s a great way to utilize math in the field.

How do you disconnect from technology?

Take a hike, go kayaking, go fishing, take a country drive, just about anything that gets you into the outdoors.

Dale Luthringer standing next to one of Cook Forest's largest treesWhat advice would you offer nature-lovers who live in large cities?

Find a place in the outdoors where you can “escape” the busyness of everyday life.  It is likely there’s some sort of park or square in your city.  If you find it hard finding time to leave the city, a special place may be a roof top, a balcony, a stream edge, any place that gets you outside that helps you reconnect/recharge your “batteries”.

What advice would you offer nature-lovers who live in rural areas?

It is easy for those of us who live in rural areas to take nature for granted since we’re in it all the time.  Remember that you don’t have to always take a vacation to experience what is often just outside our door.

What could a visitor expect to see when they come to visit you at work?

Pennsylvania’s finest old growth forest

Michigan

Maia and I at the Wilderness Trails Zoo, in Birch Run Michigan

Maia and I at the Wilderness Trails Zoo, in Birch Run Michigan

A couple weeks ago me and my family set out to go see the great state of Michigan. To get there we traveled through Ohio and saw some of our relatives in Cleveland. We had a game day in weird realms and it was super successful. We met some amazing people.

After that we chilled out, played Dungeons and Dragons, walked through an amazing park, and ate Gyros. (The Gyros were my favorite)

Then we continued our travels up to Michigan. We saw bell isle. We went to a zoo, aquarium, and botanical gardens. Our first night in Michigan we stayed in a little town that was exactly like Brookville. That night we dined on some Wendy’s  and went to bed.

The next day we had breakfast a big boy the went to a national park. we met some amazing people and walked there beautiful trails. Next we went to a zoo and saw some pretty cool animals. Then we stayed in a hotel and ate at a place called nicks. I would highly recommend it, it was delicious.

We got to meet Craig Kasmer and his staff at Hartwick Pines State Forest.

We got to meet Craig Kasmer and his staff at Hartwick Pines State Forest.

Then we swam for a while at the hotel pool, and the next big day came. This was the day we met four new and nerdy people: Karen Cleveland, of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, Sarah Cummins, policy and regulations specialist in the Wildlife Division of the DNR, Casey O’Donnell, Associate Professor, Diana Engle, DNR’s Michigan History Center . They were astonishing and taught us a lot. The highlight of my day was when Karen took us to see peregrine falcon’s nest.  That concludes our trip to Michigan. I had an amazing time you should go check it out.

We are having a Game Day

On Saturday, July 22, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Athia and I will be at the Sawmill Center For The Arts. We are going to have a day where people can come and learn how to play Edge Of Extinction. There, we will be giving out GOLD Edition cards. We will also be teaching people all day, and if there is enough people who are 10 and up, we will have a tournament for the game at 11:00. The Sawmill Center’s concession stand will be open around the lunch hour. Parker’s Trading Post will be selling starter decks at the event. You must have a starter deck to play with, you can buy one prior to the event, or you can buy one at the event. You have to pay $10:00 to get in to the Game Day Tournament.

For those of you who live in Cleveland, we are also having a Demo Day at Weird Realms. this will be taking place on June 24, from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm. It will be for people ages 10 and up.

Hope your enjoying your summer!