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BSc Curriculum in Game Development at the Kalamalka Campus of Okanagan College

D. Warren, A. Boehm, and R. Gee


Okanagan University College
{dwarren, aboehm, rgee}@ouc.bc.ca

Abstract
A curriculum for computer game development has been proposed for the new Okanagan College
(Kalamalka Campus), with a start date of September 2006. This proposed curriculum offers only
third and fourth year courses with graduates receiving an applied BSc in Computer Science. The
program will accept students who have completed the first two years of a computer science
degree. The program requires a total of 60 credits, including 39 credits in upper level science
with one course (three credits) in Math and one course (three credits) in Physics. The other 21
credits include courses exposing students to several disciplines: art production, audio design,
cinema/narrative studies, and business topics related to venture capital investment.

Keywords: computer science curriculum, software engineering curriculum, computer game


development, experimental curricula, video game curriculum

1. Introduction

In May 2003, the computer science department of Okanagan University College (OUC) held a
faculty retreat. In response to declining enrolments at the Kalamalka Campus, the faculty
decided to terminate the two year diploma program in Computer Information Systems (CIS.) ;
the same program existed at North Kelowna campus and the two programs were competing
against each other for students. However during the retreat, the administrator at Kalamalka, Jim
Hamilton (personal communication, May 27, 2003), requested that the department consider
creating a new computer-related program. In September 2003, a committee was struck and a
series of consultations began. As of February 2004, three options were considered (Thurber,
2004):
1. An engineering-oriented program that laddered to a university degree
(i.e. to the program at the University of Victoria).
2. A business-oriented program related to Management Information Systems (MIS).
3. A two-year diploma in computer game development.

Preliminary market research indicated that enrolments in engineering and technology were
declining across North America. Several engineering departments reported this on an anecdotal
basis. Long-established programs were having difficulty achieving target enrolments and so this
option was not considered further.

Business programs in the Okanagan experience full enrolment and at the Kalamalka campus the
business programs have the highest participation rates. The proposed MIS program was directed
at business students and included a stream of study in database design, systems analysis and
networking. Our committee discussion examined whether or not a student living in Kelowna
would commute one hour to Vernon to attend this program for example, was the MIS
program sufficiently differentiated from Hospitality Management? The committee decided that
an MIS option should be pursued and located at the North Kelowna campus but would not have
sufficient appeal to warrant the one-hour commute to and from Vernon.

The game development option was chosen for the following reasons.
1. High levels of interest when current CIS. students were surveyed.
2. The absence of other formal education programs in computer game development.
3. The potential appeal for international students.

Upon making the decision, the committee directed Art Boehm to initiate a series of contacts with
industry representatives. On the basis of these discussions, the diploma program was discarded in
favour of a four-year Bachelor of Science (BSc) the first two years could be completed in any
conventional computer science program; the program at the Kalamalka campus would provide
the game development focus in the third and fourth years.

2. Genesis

The term game design refers to the non-technical elements of a computer game. Curriculum in
game design is likely to be found in a fine arts program or in the humanities department. The
term game development refers to the technical aspects of production and includes code
programming. Prior to 2001, the literature on computer game development and design could be
found in many disparate fields of study (Warren, 2001). Since 2001, a large number of texts have
been published that specifically relate to game development. Many of these texts are listed on the
website of course outlines for the BSc Computer Game Development at Okanagan College (Cutt,
2004). These new publications indicate that much of the technical knowledge in industry is being
systematically recorded and is available through conventional publishing outlets.

One industry association has created a curriculum framework (International Game Developers
Association, 2005). Although primarily concerned with design curricula, the framework does
refer to coding, production, audio design, visual design and business issues. At this time, we
have found only one other university which offers a BSc in game development University of
Paisley in Scotland (BSc Computer Games Technology, 2005). Closer to our region, Edmonds
Community College located outside Seattle offers a certificate in game development (Computer
Game Development Certificate, 2005). One other institution on the east coast of the United
States is proposing a program (Bray, 2004). Recently, the offering of a video game curriculum
was announced as a collaboration between Universit de Sherbrooke, CCGEP de Matane and
Ubisoft, a company based in Montreal (Cardwell, 2005). The dearth of formal study
opportunities in game development indicates that the curriculum being developed for Okanagan
College does indeed qualify as new and experimental curriculum.

Note: Since the presentation of this paper at WCCCE on May 5, 2005, two new programs in
game development have been announced:
1) Algonquin College (2005) in Ottawa, Canada beginning September 2006.
2) University of Denver (2005) in Colorado, U.S.A. (Borland, 2005).

Game development as a specific field of study has emerged in the last three years and is
beginning to exhibit the signs of academic status. A journal dedicated to game development
published the first issue last year (Van Lent, 2004). At MIT, Henry Jenkins is principal
investigator of Education Arcade receiving $25 million in funding from Microsoft (Atwood,
2004). At the University of Southern California, a research chair has been endowed by Electronic
Arts (EA) (Schachter, 2005), and a graduate program will focus on the software engineering of
computer games (USC GamePipe Lab, 2004). Game development is also receiving increased
attention from conventional publications (Blow, 2004), while mass media is more interested in
the history of development (Video Game Revolution, 2004).

While game developers face many challenges (Frauenheim, 2004), industry contacts state that
their biggest challenge is the waste of resources due to the lack of appropriate software
engineering practices. The development of computer games may involve more art than science.
In conventional programming the requirements are specified, and the success of the project is
measured by how well the implementation has met those requirements. However, the
development of a computer game may involve the radical reformulation of the requirements at
any stage of development-even the final stage (Game Developers Conference, 1998, 1999, 2000,
2001).

Will Wright was creating a terrain editor as a tool to help him develop terrain visuals for a game;
then he decided the terrain editor was more interesting than the original gamethat editor
became Sim City. Marc LeBlanc et al. were creating yet another Dungeons & Dragons-style role-
playing game when they developed an intriguing thief character; they soon ditched the entire role
play game and then created Thief.

Will Wright was creating another simulation game; it was almost finished and then he went to
Japan where he was introduced to the aesthetics of a Zen garden (i.e. it is not finished until there
is nothing else you can remove)he returned to California and stripped out all the features until
there was nothing else he could remove. He left in player mod abilities - the opportunity for the
user to design their own modifications and thus The Sims were born.

It is worth noting that Sid Meier has created many successful strategy gamesturn-based games.
He was under significant pressure to provide real-time strategy games and he resisted. Others
tried to duplicate his success and develop real-time strategy gamesthe common complaint is
that these games are too smart for the user and too difficult to win. These anecdotal reports
from industry indicate that game development may present unique challenges for the
conventional practitioners of software engineering when the success of a product may depend on
accepting the risk of late-stage reformulation of requirements.

3. You Need Math for Game Development at Okanagan College

The 2004-05 calendar for OUC specifies (among others) the following requirements for
graduating with a Bachelor of Science.
at least 78 of the 120 credits must be Science course creditsat
least 36 of 120 credits must be Science course credits from courses
numbered 300 or higher p.51
The game development program will admit students who have completed the lower-level 60
credits at any institution. As outlined in Table 1, the lower-level credits (for first- and second-
year) will include three math courses, one physics course, one chemistry course, as well as
computer science courses in object-oriented programming, discrete structures, data structures,
machine architecture and theoretical principles of computer science.
The upper-level curriculum specific to game development is outlined in Table 2 and includes 33
credits of upper-level credits in computer science, plus upper-level special topics courses in math
and physics for a total of 39 science credits. The curriculum proposes six new courses in
computer science plus four courses to create a game development project. The course
descriptions for these new computer science courses are listed in Table 3, as well as three
proposed service courses from other departments. In addition, there is one lower-level course in
game design. The course content is based on the seminar tracks offered at the Game Developers
Conference (2005). The industry trade show has been meeting annually for since 1989 and
currently attracts 10,000 attendees from around the world.

4. Institutional and Ministry Approval

The program proposal and new course proposals have been prepared and are ready to be
submitted to Okanagan College as soon as the governance bodies are created and constituted. As
the department has already undergone a similar process for approval of the Bachelor of
Computer Information Systems, and as this degree is also being offered at the college, we
anticipate a swift approval at the institutional level.

As a new degree at the college, further approval will be needed from the Ministry of Advanced
Education. As the degree has met the OUC requirements for a BSc, we will explore the
possibility of the college issuing a conventional BSc, in recognition of the level of math
achievement that must be demonstrated by students. If not, we presume that the applied
designation will be acceptable to the ministry. Section 5.1 of the College and Institute Act does
provide for the possibility of a BSc being granted:
The minister may, by order, designate any of the following a) an applied
baccalaureate degree that a college may grant and the name for the applied
baccalaureate degree; (c) a baccalaureate degree that a Provincial institute may grant
and the name for the baccalaureate degree; Government of British Columbia (2005).
However, as noted below, industry has a history of recruiting employees with a conventional
BSc in computer science.
Table 1: Calendar entry for game development curriculum
First Year Credits
COSC 111 and 121 6
MATH 112 and 122 6
ENGL 153, plus one of ENGL 150, 151, 152 or 154 6
PHYS 111 or 112 3
PHYS 121 or 122 3
Electives1 (recommended COSC 109, 126, 131 or 150) 6
Total 30
Second Year Credits
COSC 211, 221, 222, and 231 12
MATH 212 and 221 6
COSC 2XX 3
First Year Science (Biology, Chemistry or Psychology) 3
Electives1 6
Total 30
Third and Fourth Years Credits
COSC 371, 372, 373, 374, 376 15
COSC XXX - Game Development Portfolio I, II & III 9
COSC 310, 320 6
COSC 450, 315, 414, 322 12
FINA 137, 252 6
MATH XXX 3
PHYS XXX 3
BUAD XXX 3
Elective (may take COSC 2XX) 3
Total *** 60

1
At least 18 credits (including 6 credits in first year English and 6 credits in Fine Arts) must be
in Arts courses.

*** Course numbers based on current OUC calendar.


Table 2: BSc curriculum in Computer Game Development
Third Year Fall
MATH XXX Mathematics for Game Development
COSC 315 Operating Systems
COSC 371 Production, Workflow and Asset Management
COSC 374 Data Networks and Mobile Devices
Elective may take COSC 2XX

Third Year Winter


PHYS XXX Physics for Game Development
COSC 372 Game Audio Design
COSC 414 Computer Graphics
FINA 137 Introduction to Art I
COSC XXX Development Portfolio: Building Tools

Fourth Year Fall


COSC 304 Introduction to Database Management
COSC 310 Software Engineering
COSC 450 Advanced Gaming Architecture
COSC 373 Visual Design and Graphics
COSC XXX Development Portfolio: Integrating Tools

Fourth Year Winter


COSC 322 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
BUAD XXX Technology Entrepreneurship & Business Law
COSC 320 Analysis of Algorithms
FINA 252 Film Studies
COSC XXX Development Portfolio: Console Implementation
Table 3: Course descriptions for new game development courses (page 1 of 2)

New Computer Science courses


COSC 2XX - Game Development and Design COSC 374 - Data Networks and Mobile
Devices
This course is an introduction to the aesthetics of
computer game design. A review of eighteen game This course will enable programmers to build a
design schemas, or conceptual frameworks, network library that can be reused in a variety of
including games as systems of emergence and online games, implement network communications
information, as contexts for social play, as a and then learn how to construct login and lobby
storytelling medium and as sites of cultural systems. A fully functional network library will
resistance. Building an aesthetic of interactive include a back-end database and a complete
systems will facilitate the collaboration between working online game. Topics include the basics of
developers and designers. dialog-based Windows programming and an
introduction to socket programming.

COSC 371 Production, Workflow and Asset Management

This course reviews the scheduling of work and people, and the management of large data files (database),
when developing a computer game. The scheduling portion of the course may involve Gantt charts, PERT
charts and critical path scheduling. The asset management portion of the course may involve databases and
other types of data structures, which will be evaluated for their effectiveness with datasets that vary in size
and complexity. It explores how to create, manage and control a complex web of data, especially when
there are many people editing it simultaneously. Tracking and sorting file names through the development
process is one objective. Building programmer tools is an objective of the course.

COSC 372 - Game Audio Design COSC 373 - Visual Design and Graphics

This course introduces a variety of issues familiar This course is a survey of tools and advanced
to audio professionals. Programmers may interact techniques in the production of visual art for
with composers, sound designers, editors, mixers, computer games. Topics may include: character
voice-overs and music supervisors, thus they should modeling, environmental modeling, texture
be aware of both technical aspects and creative mapping, animating characters faster with higher
elements of sound design. Programmers must share quality motion capture editing, animation synthesis
knowledge and then solve problems unique to game and lip synced animation. The relationship between
development. artist and programmer will also be explored.

COSC 450 - Advanced Gaming Architecture COSC XXX


Development Portfolio I, II & III
This course enables the programmer to connect
hardware components and mobile electronic These three courses explore the design and
devices for the purpose of meeting function, development of a computer game prototype. The
performance and cost goals. This course will focus project will generate design documents, proof-of-
on hardware issues that are unique to game concept prototypes and play-testing metrics. The
development and explore recent innovations in intent is to generate a prototype that is ready to be
consumer electronics. demonstrated to venture capitalists.
Table 3: Course descriptions for new game development courses (page 2 of 2)

New Service courses


Math XXX - Math for Game Development BUAD XXX - Technology Entrepreneurship

This course is a survey of key concepts in This course is a survey of business concepts
mathematics needed to understand physics engines, relevant to computer game development including:
rendering, simulation and animation. Topics include tort law, models of motivation and leadership,
texture filtering, interpolation, animation and basic employment standards in the technology sector,
game physics. Algorithmic foundations focus on software marketing, and seeking venture capital
optimization guidance. investment.

PHYS XXX - Physics for Game Development

This course is an introduction to the concepts and


techniques needed to create physical simulations,
Lagrangian dynamics, rigid body dynamics,
impulse methods, resting contact, linear
complementary problems, deformable bodies,
mass-spring systems, friction, numerical solution of
differential equations, numerical stability and its
relationship to physical stability, and Verlet
integration methods.

5. Game Developers Conference and Industry Contacts in Canada

In January 2004, Art Boehm began a series of consultations with industry. Graduates of
conventional computer science programs often need to be retrained by industry. These
discussions led to the following conclusions.
1. A four-year program of study in computer science is necessary for game
development.
2. The first two years can include the standard introduction to computer science,
supplemented by additional courses in mathematics.
3. The curriculum should specialize in game development issues in the upper levels,
plus provide interdisciplinary exposure to visual graphics, audio design, as well as
cinema and narrative studies.
4. Graduates should leave the program with a portfolio that includes one credible game,
developed from scratch and compiled for a console (i.e. a consumer electronic device,
such as Nintendo, Sony PlayStation and Microsoft XBox , that retails for $300 or
less).
5. Programmers in the industry need to be tool builders or middleware developers.
Proprietary tools are often deemed to be the most important assets. The goal is to
develop an IDE (integrated development environment) for gaming.
6. A co-op work experience may be required to graduate.
In March 2004 and 2005, Art Boehm went to the Game Developers Conference in San Jose,
California. This conference is an industry trade show run by a private company. Academics are
invited to submit papers and if you are accepted as a speaker then there is no registration fee. All
other attendees pay a registration fee of $US1600 to attend this five-day event. As mentioned
previously, the conference attracts 10,000 attendees. Some academics gain access by
volunteering; for example, the M.I.M.E. program (2005), a graduate-level program from Indiana
University, sends many students and faculty as volunteers each year. The following observations
are relevant to the development of the game development curriculum.
1. Game development companies do much of their employee recruiting at the
conference - in total, some 500 positions each year, where approximately half the
positions require programmers. Approximately 80 positions require proficiency in C,
C++ and portable assembly language.
2. Many positions request a minimum of two years of work experience. Headhunters
reported that it was difficult to place people without work experience.
3. The major corporations involved are Sony, Microsoft and EA.
4. Serious games are real-world simulations and are gaining prominence as a field of
study.
5. The U.S. military has a high level of involvement in developing physical simulations
(i.e. tanks, helicopters); the game industry tends to be better at modeling human
behaviour. The conference featured several seminars on how to write procurement
documents.
6. Main locations of development companies are: Silicon Valley, California; Austin,
Texas; Vancouver, B.C.; and locations in Japan and the United Kingdom.

Another game development success story is Bioware Corp (2005) of Edmonton, Alberta.
Currently employing 220 people, the company has released many successful titles. In
Vancouver, Radical Entertainment (2005) and Rockstar Games (2005) are game development
companies specializing in media licenses and action titles, respectively. In Montreal, Ubisoft
(2005) has just announced a collaboration with the Universit de Sherbrooke and CEGEP de
Matane, in providing an access for graduate students to study video game programming, digital
imaging and electronics (Cardwell, 2005).

An IDE or an SQL-for-games does not yet exist. It is clear that the industry is just beginning to
build these tools. At the same time, there is an expectation of incorporating higher art forms,
more sophisticated forms of persuasion, clever narratives and insightful seriousnessdont just
race a car, use the game environment to build it, then race it and along the way learn something
about mechanical engineering.

6. Conclusion:
A two-year curriculum will graduate students with an applied degree in computer science and
focus on specific content related to computer game development. The 39 credits of upper level
science and the focus on mathematics meet the existing requirements for a science degree at
Okanagan University College (OUC) and form the basis for the proposed program at the newly
constituted Okanagan College. Consultations with the game development industry indicated that
a conventional computer science degree (BSc.) was the preferred credential.
Institutional approval of this program is being complicated by the division of OUC into a college
and a university-affiliate of University of British Columbia. With a curriculum focus on software
engineering, combined with the emergent nature of research in the field of game development, it
was deemed appropriate to situate the program at the college rather than the university. This new
degree must be approved by the Ministry of Advanced Education. Situated at the college, it is
more likely to be approved as an applied BSc. However, in response to perceptions in the game
industry, and in recognition of the level of mathematics achievement, the department will
explore the possibility of ministry approval for Okanagan College granting a conventional BSc
in computer science.

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Submitted to:
Western Canadian Conference on Computing Education
May 5-6, 2005
University of Northern British Columbia
Submitted by:
Name: Deborah Warren
Dept: Computer Science
Institution: Okanagan University College
Postal Address: 7000 College Way, Vernon, B.C., Canada V1B 2N5
Email address: dwarren@ouc.bc.ca
Name: Arthur Boehm
Dept: Computer Science
Institution: Okanagan University College
Postal Address: 7000 College Way, Vernon, B.C., Canada V1B 2N5
Email address: aboehm@ouc.bc.ca
Name: Rick Gee
Dept: Computer Science
Institution: Okanagan University College
Postal Address: 3333 University Way, Kelowna, B.C., Canada V1V 1V7
Email address: rgee@ouc.bc.ca