Franklin man among first to complete high-tech program

Published 9:14 am Saturday, May 15, 2010

PORTSMOUTH—Patrick Butler didn’t know what to expect when he started taking classes in modeling and simulation at Tidewater Community College two years ago.

“I went in blind with hopes that it would lead me down the right road,” Butler said Thursday. “I’ve been real lucky that it fits in with what I like to do and how the field really suits me.”

The 25-year-old Franklin resident was among the first two students to graduate from the modeling and simulation program at TCC’s Friday night graduation.

Modeling and simulation runs the gamut from video-game development to the health-care and defense fields.

Jody Strausser, an assistant professor of modeling and simulation at TCC, said the program at the college is only a few years old.

“The idea behind the program is to intensely train students using computer programming, some physics-based modeling and visualization, which are the skills that employers on the TCC modeling and simulation advisory board said are primary for students to be hired in one of the local companies,” Stausser said.

Butler said he learned about the program from his uncle, who’s an engineering professor at TCC.

Making an honest living, without some type of higher education, “is very tough,” Butler said. “I saved up money and I went back to school, and I’m glad I did.”

He is currently completing an internship with a Portsmouth modeling and simulation company.

Strausser is glad to see the first two students finish the program.

“I’m excited for both of them,” he said. “I believe that they’ll have some good opportunities ahead of them.”

Modeling and simulation has weathered the economic downturn well, Strausser said.

“While there has been impact from the economic downturn, it is one of the fields that has continued to actually grow,” he said.

Strausser said there are about 70 students in the program, ranging from high school graduates interested in video-game development to laid-off workers from International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill.

“We’re going to follow these students that are beginning to graduate, and as the needs of the modeling and simulation community changes, we’re going to continue to evolve our program to meet those needs,” he said.

Butler hopes to get a job in the field and pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“It’s still a new field and there are a lot of possibilities on where it can go and where it can lead people job-wise,” he said.

The classes have also given Butler a new appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into building video games.

“It is a lot of tedious programming work to produce video games,” he said. “It takes longer to make a video game than it does to make a movie.”