Three and a half years after enrolling at NJIT without any prior programming experience, Robert Gioia ’17 landed a frontend development position at Jump Ramp Games, a fast-growing mobile-first company based in New York City.
“NJIT provided me with a well-rounded education in game development and allowed me to get hands-on experience during my time in college,” says Gioia, an Honors College alumnus, who graduated from NJIT with a 4.0 GPA and a B.S. in information technology with a concentration in game development.
A mainstay on The Princeton Review’s annual list saluting the top 50 undergraduate schools to study game design — and the only school in New Jersey to make the cut — NJIT has evolved into a community of designers and developers, artists and programmers, scientists and industry partners, “all working together to see where games and gaming technologies can take us next,” says Marc Sequeira, coordinator of game development for the information technology program at NJIT. “Rob is one of the strongest students in the history of NJIT’s game development program.”
Gioia tapped into the university’s thriving collaborative environment, spending two years as a virtual reality game developer working for NJIT’s Vision and Neural Engineering Laboratory, where he helped secure a $10,000 Engineering Projects in Communities grant from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
As a unity developer, Gioia maintains Jump Ramp Games’ flagship app Lucktastic, a free-to-play virtual scratch card game available on iOS and Android platforms.
Here, the Long Island native talks about his award-winning therapeutic video game design, shares why he enjoys working on an app that reaches 12 million unique American consumers weekly, offers advice to budding game designers — and explains why NJIT’s diverse course offerings give students a unique edge.
GIOIA AND HIS TEAM WON FIRST PLACE at the 2016 NJIT TechQuest Innovation Competition for Eyes of Ra, a virtual reality game he invented to be used in vision therapy. “Convergence insufficiency, the binocular vision disorder we’re aiming to cure with this game, causes patients to have trouble doing nearsighted work like reading and writing. Eyes of Ra gamifies clinical therapy and increases patient compliance by providing a fun alternative to current therapy.”
GIOIA’S JOB ISN’T ONLY FUN, IT’S GRATIFYING. “Currently, I’m working on maintaining the Lucktastic app. One thing that I find so rewarding about working on a project like this is how many people are affected each day by our work. Lucktastic currently has over 100,000 daily users and frequently gives out generous cash prizes. The company has already paid out a $1,000,000 prize and awarded a New Jersey player $25,000 for winning the Winter Warm Up Contest.”
NJIT OFFERS A CUSTOMIZABLE DEGREE PROGRAM. “I not only learned game programming, but I also used the majority of my elective courses to study digital design topics such as 3D character design, storyboarding and interactive environments. It’s rare, even for a school that offers game development, to have such a diverse option of courses offered on a regular basis. It makes a student employable to a diverse range of employers, including those outside of game development."
THE CONCEPTS BEING TAUGHT IN CLASSES AT NJIT ARE USED IN THE REAL WORLD. “I’m already writing code that is being used in the latest releases of the Lucktastic app, and I’m already a contributing member of the development team. I largely attribute that to the education and experience NJIT provided me.”
NEVER OVERLOOK THE POWER OF INTERNSHIPS AND EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. “On my interview, I was asked a number of questions about my role on campus as a virtual reality game developer, my undergraduate thesis and class projects. By taking on several opportunities, you will gain hands-on experience in the field before you even leave college. The industry takes notice of these things, and you’ll be surprised at how much interviewers and prospective employers value these experiences. Studying game design at NJIT was one of the best choices I’ve ever made and definitely made it possible for me to land my current job.”