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Zachary Sullivan

Digital Innovation Greenhouse Questions & Answer.


What is your proudest achievement?

A key aspect of my four year BIT (Bachelor of Information Technology) degree experience, and consequently one of my proudest achievements to date, was the successful completion of the final thesis project called “Valence". With invaluable input from both Dr. Chris Joslin (Carleton U - media, tooling & animation techniques) and Dr. Michael Wolfson (U of Ottawa & Statistics Canada - micro-simulation and analytics). Our six person team conceived, designed and developed, over a one year (2015-2016) period, an advanced turn-based team-oriented 3D simulation game. 


Valence is set in a post-apocalyptic model of Montreal’s subway system and requires effective communication between game participants to acquire needed resources to survive. Critically, the game was implemented and powered through the use of Unity’s Game Engine and its A* agent navigation tool which I modified to provide adaptive agent movements reacting to both static impediments and dynamic events from within the game environment.


As project team lead, the Valence project not only challenged my technical software skills but fully tested and expanded my abilities to manage people’s expectations and deliverables, their interlocking resource needs and time. All of which has left me with a new found appreciation for the importance of building effective inter-personal relationships along with strong technical skills. Ultimately, the project team members were able to successful complete our product vision while also being invited, subsequently, to present our work at a number of public seminars, including the Ottawa International Game Conference (with further commercial development being discussed).


Dr. Rodney Brooks: Subsumed Behavior Robotic Control Architecture

An important part of Valence's design approach was the use of a per-agent layered state machine to drive distinct behaviors triggered from sensor inputs. These inputs were derived from the game environment resulting in either randomized wandering, directed work actions or a high priority fight or flight response by a player’s agent. The principal motivation in using this form of software construction was from Dr. Rodney Brooks 1985 paper on a Subsumed Behavior Robotic Control Architecture which offers the advantages of:

a) a control system based on specific agent behaviours and not semi-abstract functional     software modules;

b) an incremental way to define and test sophisticated agent interactions through the         use of time-augmented Finite State Machines;

c) a control system that leverages state-driven logic linked through asynchronous                 message passing.

d) eliminates a need a need for a centralized control module having to deal with a variable      number of game agents.


Why Digital Innovation Greenhouse?

First and foremost, the extensive Digital Innovation Greenhouse portfolio and its team mission to improve learning solutions strongly attracted my interest. Having recently had the opportunity to take an online course through the University of Michigan (Python for Everybody Specialization), which lead to further research into Digital Innovation Greenhouse program, I was most impressed with the outreach your organization has provided to this class. 

Fundamentally, striving to develop creative and innovative solutions to unique and challenging problems is a key aspect of my own professional philosophy and I am excited by the potential offered by the Digital Innovation Greenhouse way-of-doing. My goal is to seek an unique software oriented opportunity to work and learn in a place that both values and shares skills while also encouraging the pursuit of this positive perspective.


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© 2016 Zachary Sullivan
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