Techpath Lecture Series: Kate Reilly
Posted on February 24, 2014
Kate Reilly, Product Manager of E-Line Media, was charmingly candid with Wheaton students during a day-long visit this February. “Take lots of risks…get real world experience, move to a big or interesting city with lots of opportunities, and find amazing people to work for who are interested in being a mentor and with whom you can contribute to a vision. Be poor, be risky, and don’t waste your own time.”
The Techpaths Lecture Series collaborated with Wheaton’s Education Club to host Reilly as she spoke to students, faculty, and staff about her experience producing educational video games for adolescent students that stimulated conversation about relevant social issues like teen dating violence.
In addition to her lecture, Reilly attended Professor Rolf Nelson’s Cognition class, as well as an informal dinner discussion with nine of the college’s Techpath Fellows – top-notch students with faculty recommendations and interests that mirrored Reilly’s work. She dispelled rumors that those with coding or design experience are the only ones qualified for work in the gaming industry--quite the contrary, Reilly insisted that knowledge of behavior, community, and organization gave her a professional advantage in the field of education technology. At the end of the day, she was introduced by Wheaton sophomore and Education Club Treasurer Stephanie Drake ‘16. Reilly then offered a lecture to the Wheaton community on the educational benefits of video games…including an interactive experience with Gamestar Mechanic.
Reilly’s success in the video game industry was a fortunate detour from the original plan. She got her start with an undergraduate biochemistry degree from the New College of Florida and the intention to spend her Master’s education at Boston University School of Public Health focusing on immunobiology. Instead, a course on the Epidemiology of Family Violence—“It was just supposed to be an elective!”— changed her career path, and Reilly found herself pursuing professional opportunities in domestic violence prevention programs.
While acting as a contractor for the Rhode Island Department of Education, Reilly was awarded a million dollar grant by the Robert Johnson Foundation – money to be spent on research supporting adolescent health and teen dating violence preclusion. Her efforts came to fruition in The Real Robots of Robot High—a game designed to stimulate valuable conversation about healthy adolescent relationships—and a permanent position at E-Line. She has worked on various projects since then, including Gamestar Mechanic, Historia, and qCraft - a quantam mechanic mod of the popular Minecraft game.
Student response was overwhelmingly positive, as the audience remained engaged and amused by Reilly’s demonstration. “The presentation was...inspiring,” said Andrew Shelton ‘15. “It helped me understand how to apply my...degree in computer science in a productive and positive way for the future of youth education.” Education Club President and teacher-to-be Abigail Glennon ‘14 agreed, “I really enjoyed listening to how useful these games were at keeping students focused while enhancing their problem-solving techniques. Kate is…[exactly] what educators are looking for...innovative and student-centered.”
- Julie Bogen '14