Columbus State Announces Games, Education, Modeling, and Simulation Institute

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University will use a $1.6 million federal grant to establish a Games, Education, Modeling, and Simulation Institute as a model project in support of tactical defense efforts at Fort Benning and elsewhere in the region.

GEMS presentationWayne Summers discusses GEMS Institute.CSU President Timothy Mescon announced the long-planned effort today during a project kickoff meeting with representatives of the Department of Defense and Columbus State’s TSYS School of Computer Science, which will operate the GEMS Institute.

“Fort Benning’s expanded training role, which came as a result of the addition of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, caused us to look at the increased demand for a well-trained technology workforce in the region,” Mescon said.

  “This workforce will be needed to support not only the base and defense contractors, but also businesses that relocate to take advantage of the state’s tax incentive programs for companies within the entertainment industry, especially gaming.”

Wayne Summers, above right, chair of the TSYS school in CSU’s Turner College of Business and Computer Science, will also serve as executive director of the new institute. He said there are five main goals for the institute:

  • Engage in collaborative research and development in games, modeling and simulation.
  • Support the Maneuver Center of Excellence and its growing need for GEMS-related technologies.
  • Develop a workforce to support GEMS-related needs for Fort Benning, local defense industry businesses, and regional economic development.
  • Support games and entertainment industry businesses relocating to the Chattahoochee Valley, as well as existing businesses.
  • Coordinate games, modeling and simulation activities of post-secondary academic institutions within the Chattahoochee Valley region.

“By establishing the GEMS Institute, Columbus State University has taken its first steps toward providing structure to guide our research efforts in support of the defense, education and entertainment industries,” Summers said. “We think we are poised to become a national leader in this arena.”

Summers credited Congressman Sanford Bishop with helping to secure the $1.6 million federal grant that establishes the new institute.

"I am glad to be in a position to offer continued support to Columbus State University and to be able to assist with the establishment of the GEMS Institute," Bishop said. "The marriage between Fort Benning, the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Columbus State University is a win-win proposition.  This will put our area on the cutting edge of this developing technology which, in addition to a tremendous economic impact for our area, will save the Department of Defense billions of dollars in military training costs."

The formation of the new institute builds on four years of GEMS curriculum development at Columbus State University. In 2006, CSU began offering a degree track in game programming to meet a demand not only in the entertainment industry, but also for designers and programmers of educational computer simulations that inform decision-making in the military, government, corporate management, health care, and other areas.  That year, a local defense contractor enrolled some of its employees in the program who ultimately developed a simulation program to train soldiers to inspect vehicles, ask for identification and respond to related scenarios.

In 2008, the university received a $100,000 grant to develop a specially designed computer science curriculum to provide local defense contractors with employees skilled in computer modeling, simulation, and gaming. Simulators are used extensively by all military branches in training for combat. Learning at the controls of a computer-driven trainer instead of a real tank or plane allows for better training at reduced costs, without wear and tear on actual combat vehicles or systems.