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October 5, 2010

USC Team Wins

First Lady Michelle Obama's Apps for Healthy Kids Competition

Erin Reynolds, left, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Rita Yeung, David Villatoro, USC School of Social Work professor Maryalice Jordan-Marsh, Tony Tseung and Ross Danielson. Photo - Bob Nichols

Trainer, a game developed by a team of USC students, has won the Grand Prize as well as the GE Healthymagination Student Award, and a total of $20,000 at the Apps for Healthy Kids Challenge, part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.

The game, developed by an interdivisional team of students, including SCA Interactive Media Division students David Villatoro, Erin Reynolds, John Banayan and Erik Nichols, as well as USC students Tony Tseung, Rita Yeung, Ross Danielson, Adam Berkett and Joseph Kohn, takes users to an enchanted island where they care for creatures who have dietary and fitness needs. It uses a webcam interface to monitor the motions of the player and transfers those motions to the on-screen character.

The USC game was built jointly by the SCA Interactive Media Division and the GamePipe Laboratory in the USC Viterbi School. Michael Zyda was the principal investigator with co-PIs Marientina Gotsis of the School of Cinematic Arts and Maryalice Jordan-Marsh of the School of Social Work.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra led the awards ceremony, which also featured appearances from White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack; Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; and former Washingon Redskins Super Bowl champion running back, Brian Mitchell. A panel of industry experts, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mike Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, served as judges.

The competition was designed to inspire software developers, game designers, and students from around the country to create engaging apps that will motivate children to choose healthier food options and become more physically active. In four months, students, hobbyists, developers, and corporations submitted 95 eligible games and apps. More than 40,000 people signed on as supporters of the challenge through the website.

To play the game online, go to

Trainer Game credits

Producers - Erin Reynolds (SCA) & Tony Tseung (Viterbi Computer Science)
Design Team - John Banayan, Erik Nichols (SCA), & David Villatoro (SCA Alumnus)
Lead Artist - Rita Yeung (Roski)
Programmers - Joseph Kohn, Ross Danielson (VCS) & David Villatoro (SCA alumnus)