Steamboat Springs When Evan Champlin started creating a computer game for his independent study in high school, he never thought the experience would be a springboard to receiving a job with the Department of Defense.
Champlin, 18, graduated from Steamboat Springs High School at the semester break so he could begin developing a computer game for the Army that simulates a trainee's experience from boot camp through individual field missions.
The Army hopes such video games can be both educational and used as recruiting tools.
"Working for the Army opens a huge field of resources," he said. "I get to go to sites and take photos and then come back to offices to create the game."
The realistic component of the game exposes people to the operations of the Army.
"It's an absolute incredible experience. Very few kids 18 to 19 get to create a game," he said.
Champlin said he didn't initially think his independent study in high school would give him enough experience to begin a career in game development. He said he figured he would need at least a four-year college degree.
He said Cathleen Totten, a member of the school district's tech committee, encouraged him to pursue his independent study project and gave him the opportunity to work with technology tools in the game development field. Champlin used information available on the Web and numerous hours of trial and error while discovering the process of developing a game.
The people he works with in California, he said, try to teach him as much as possible and make his experience at work very positive and educational.
"The situation Evan is in right now is so unique and is such a credit to his self-motivation and focus," said Debi Champlin, his mother.
She said when Evan initially talked to the head of the Army Game Project about a position, he said Evan met all the criteria for the job but was too young. Champlin's resume was impressive enough, though, that he was offered an internship last summer.
Champlin accepted the internship and hoped to attend high school at the site in Monterey, Calif. But he ran into housing problems and moved back to Steamboat for the first semester of his senior year in high school. He graduated at the end of the semester so he could resume his internship.
Graduating at the end of the semester is one option seniors in Steamboat have if they meet certain requirements. Champlin said being able to graduate early gave him the opportunity of a lifetime.
When he started at the age of 17, Champlin is believed to have been the youngest person involved in such work for the government.
He said he thinks he will stay with the project for a while before moving onto a different game development project.
He said he came back to Steamboat for the prom and graduation.
"Luckily, I have reasons to come back here," he said.