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For Jeannette Yu, a 15-year old art-loving teen, stepping into a gaming programmer’s shoes for a two-week long summer camp helped her discover an unexpected love for writing code and creating games.

She was one of three girls at the 30-person ProjectFun summer workshop put on by DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond. DigiPen offers four video game programming workshops throughout the summer for students in eighth grade and up.

Despite having little background in programming, Yu created one of the most popular games of the camp.

At the summer camp’s July showcase the audience voted for the best game. When Yu was called to the stage she says her “heart pounded through her chest,” and she had to coach herself to calm down. As she explained her game to the audience her instructor, David Grayson looked on. He wasn’t nervous.

Jeannette Yu

“She was one of the rock stars of the camp,” he said. “As soon as her game came up it was an immediate victory.” Yu says she was shocked by the applause as her game lit up the auditorium.

In her game, Fast Fruit Chain, players drop fruits into their matching trees by clicking on lemons, apples, and blueberries as they scroll across the top of the screen.

It’s fast-paced– similar to an assembly line in a fast food restaurant– but with a healthier twist. If too much fruit misses the tree you lose– and “Too Much Acid Waste” informs you– it’s game over.

What made her game a success?

“Not only did she put a lot of work into her art, but the game didn’t have any bugs, and it was addictive,” says Grayson.

While there’s no current plans for her game to go public Yu says she’s loved sharing it with all of her friends who weren’t at the camp. Yu is now considering a career in programming and has enrolled in java and video game programming classes for next year.

This is the 17th summer of the ProjectFun workshops. The last camp of the summer runs this week and workshops start up again in June.

Chantal Anderson is a Seattle area journalist.

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