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KUER News and RadioWest are bringing you a series of stories and conversations on Utah's air. It's easy to look at the haze on a red air quality day and say that something needs to be done about it. But what? We'll be talking about the roles that individuals, industry and government can play in cleaning up Utah's air quality. We'll also look at what the costs may to be to our economy and our health if we don't.

U of U Students Develop Video Game App to Combat Air Pollution

University of Utah graduate students are developing a video game app to help Utahns better understand the connection between their actions and the dirty air. 

Kerry Kelly is Associate Director of the University of Utah’s program for Air Quality, Health and Society. She says her role is to make sure this game is backed up by scientific evidence. But here’s one of the ideas they’re considering:

“Someone is the mayor of a city and they’re passing new rules about what people can and can’t do or maybe they’re changing traffic patterns and looking at unintended consequences,” Kelly says. “We’re going to kind of let the arts and entertainment folks run us through their process and develop a game that we think is going to be most engaging to the audience.”

Roger Altizer is overseeing the project. He’s Director of Game Design and Production in the Entertainment, Arts and Engineering program at the University of Utah. In the next few weeks, he’ll be assembling a team of graduate students to design the game, which he says will target high school students in Utah.

“We know that the policy makers of tomorrow are in high school today,” Altizer says. “And so we know that this is problem that’s going to take a long time to solve and that’s who we want to educate about this.”

Altizer says games educate people in a different way than books or video’s do.

“Being able to interact with information; being able to play with information allows you to have a deep understanding of it, and it allows you to approach it in your own manner,” Altizer says.

The project is funded by a $40,000 grant from the Utah Clean Air Partnership or UCAIR, which Utah Governor Gary Herbert created in 2012 to come up with solutions to the state’s poor air quality.

The money will be used to pay the students who create the game, which will be free of charge to the public.

The Utah Division of Air Quality, the Utah Health Department and Breathe Utah are also involved in the project. 

Copyright 2014 KUER 90.1

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Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.