News & Events

 


Undergraduate student creates video games for assessing depression

Posted on 2019-04-09 in Science & Technology, Students & Campus Life, Research, Scholarly & Artistic Work

Under the supervision of Dr. Regan Mandryk (PhD), Sarah Vedress is helping to program and create artwork for carnival-themed games designed to gather information on players’ mental health. (Photo: submitted)

by Noah Callaghan

When computer science student Sarah Vedress first heard about the research being done by Dr. Regan Mandryk (PhD) on assessing mental health using video games, she immediately became interested.

Since last May, Vedress has been helping create video games modelled after psychological tests that can indicate depression as part of a 16-month position in the Computer Science Professional Internship Program (CSPIP).

Vedress, a third-year student in the College of Arts and Science and former president of the University of Saskatchewan Games Club, has always enjoyed playing video games. She saw Mandryk’s research on the subject as pushing the boundaries of the medium.

Sarah Vedress
Sarah Vedress is a third year computer science student in the College of Arts and Science. (Photo: Noah Callaghan)


“When you think about creating games as a career, you don’t think about games research and that was something really appealing to me,” Vedress said. “So many people play them so often, it’s just a really good opportunity to find things out about people.”

Under Mandryk’s supervision, Vedress and other team members are programming and creating artwork for several carnival-themed games designed to gather information on players’ wellness.

The games are based on psychological tests that evaluate thought processes and reaction times to look for indications of depression. Vedress said making tests into games could improve the accessibility of health assessments because video games engage similar problem-solving skills and are played habitually.

“If you can make assumptions of what their mental health is like based on what they do every single day,” Vedress said, “then maybe that can be turned into making recommendations for when they should see a doctor.”

Vedress said she has had an “amazing” time working on this research project in the Department of Computer Science’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab.

Regan Mandryk
Dr. Regan Mandryk (PhD) is a professor of computer science and the recipient of an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from NSERC. (Photo: Martin Lipman / NSERC)


“You are given a lot of freedom to work on your own,” she said. “There are so many smart people around that you can really draw from their knowledge.”

As a professor in the Department of Computer Science, Mandryk sees the CSPIP internship as a practical way for students to gain valuable skills as they work on research for assessing mental health with video games.

“This research project is high-risk in terms of it being entirely innovative," Mandryk said, “but also has the potential of high reward in being able to help people who suffer from depression in a truly novel way.”

“Video games are already used by players to manage mental health. Better and more informed game design can actually make this relationship more effective,” said Mandryk.

Mandryk was able to hire Vedress with funds from the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to create digital game technology and solutions for assessing mental health over a two-year period.

“Sarah is a dream. I'm so lucky that she chose to spend her internship in my lab,” Mandryk said. “She is talented, professional, dedicated, smart, creative, analytical and a joy to have in the lab.”

Sheep herding game


Vedress and her fellow student researcher Janelle Berscheid were recently semifinalists in the NSERC Science, Action! video competition. The pair worked to create a one-minute video summarizing the mental health assessment research for a chance at a cash prize.

Vedress said she looks forward to applying the skills she is developing through the internship after she graduates.

“When it comes to my future, I’m driven by workplaces that have really interesting atmospheres and smart people,” she said. “So as far as what I work on in the future, I’m not really concerned as long as I’m learning every single day.”

(Noah Callaghan is an English student intern in the College of Arts and Science communications office.)

 

Back to News Listing

Related Articles

Anthropology student explores women’s reproductive decision-making processes

Posted on 2020-05-25

Jessica Jack, who will graduate with a four-year Bachelor of Arts (honours) degree this spring, will be honoured with the award for Most Outstanding Graduate in Anthropology


Researchers observe protons ‘playing hopscotch’ in a high-pressure form of ice

Posted on 2020-05-25

The discovery by Dr. John Tse (PhD) and collaborators in Ireland could help us understand the behaviour of water on other planets


English student honoured for academic achievement and community involvement

Posted on 2020-05-20

Drumlin Crape was twice awarded a Hannon Scholarship from the University of Saskatchewan's Department of English


Arts and Science graduate students win highest academic honours

Posted on 2020-05-20

Dr. Mohammad Masudur Rahman (PhD) and Dr. Christopher West (PhD) have been awarded the Governor General's Gold Medal


The Arts and Science Class of 2020 Photo Contest

Posted on 2020-05-20

Win one of 20 gift cards for $50!


Award-winning geological sciences student discovers passion for fieldwork

Posted on 2020-05-19

Iliajah Pidskalny is the recipient of the Walter Kupsch Award from the Saskatchewan Geological Society