Jonathan Shields's passion for gaming leads to UAH computer science degree

Jonathan Shields

Jonathan Shields's passion for gaming leads to a UAH computer science degree. UAH fall commencement is Sunday, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m., in the Von Braun Center Propst Arena.

Michael Mercier | UAH

Jonathan Shields's love of computer games began at age six, when his parents gave him a GBC (Game Boy Color). But Shields, who graduates from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) College of Science on Sunday, Dec. 10, with a Bachelor's degree — is more interested in the games the computer allows him to play, rather than the complex features of the electronic brain.

"I am way more interested in the art of game design and development than I am computers. I have been playing video games since I was in second grade when my parents bought me a GBC. My passion for (playing) computer games is what led me to get a degree in Computer Science. The ability to program games will allow me to enter the gaming industry to create entertainment for millions of people," he said.

A Huntsville native, Shields graduated from Buckhorn High School in Madison County, AL. The honor student was the recipient of a UAH Presidential Scholarship in 2014. In addition, he received a NASA Alabama Space Grant Scholarship and a Draper Memorial Church Scholarship. Shields first considered attending the university after visiting the campus and touring UAH colleges and other departments while on a high school field trip. The deciding factor, he said, to attend the internationally ranked research university was receiving the prestigious scholarship. "The award covers my tuition…being able to attend UAH with tuition covered is a huge benefit and it was an offer that I didn’t want to pass up."

Unlike most students, Shields welcomed the "difficulty" of his classes at UAH. "All of my professors prepared me for my future profession in a significant way. I had amazing professors like Dr. Timothy S. Newman (Professor, Computer Science), who pushed me to my limit and made me perform at my absolute best. And, Dr. Rick Coleman (Lecturer), who really taught me the importance of having a foundation when it comes to programming. Through it all, all of my professors taught me skills that I will take with me for the rest of my life."

"Jonathan has excelled at UAH since his participation in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Summer Bridge Program in the summer of 2014. I am impressed by his attention to detail, organizational skills and his representation of the College of Science in various roles such as a LSAMP Scholar and CoS Ambassador. He has created another template for success at UAH," said Dr. Emanuel Waddell, Associate Dean, College of Science.

While at UAH Shields successfully completed two internships and a large special project. He interned at Regions Financial Corporation headquartered in Birmingham, AL, during the summer in 2015 and 2016. Shields worked in the Operation and Technology Center specifically with the automation team. "The automation team is responsible for creating software to execute tasks that an employee would normally do. The Regions team was responsible for testing the functionality of the services provided to the sales and service team and tellers as well as all of the transactions that are made from our customers. I was able to contribute to the team by providing aide in the clean-up and maintenance of over 15,000 lines of source code, decreasing the runtime to test automation scripts."

Shields second internship was at Boeing last summer. There, he worked with a team responsible for testing the software used on the International Space Station. "My contribution to the team included creating a web application in ASP.Net using C# (programming language) that manages the scheduling and execution of all test cases." ASP.Net is a web application that allows programmers to produce dynamic websites.

His special project consisted of developing a small platformer application that could be played on mobile devices. "After spending more than a month (outside of work) programming I was able to develop my very first game, a platformer app," Shields said. "In the game, the player is tasked with falling down and landing on the good clouds while avoiding the bad clouds. This game was created using unity and C#."

For Shields, balancing his very demanding class schedule and his involvement in many UAH extracurricular activities required a lot of skill. He served on the Freshmen Council and the UAH Student Government Association. In addition, Shields served as a mentor for, JUMP and LSAMP. He also served as a Science and OBDMA Ambassador, and Academic Coach. "Balancing all of these activities with my academic work was extremely difficult…and it is something that I am still working on. However, the good thing is the balancing act has helped me tremendously with time management skills."

As Shields prepares for his new life after graduation, he reflects on his many relationships with UAH faculty and fellow students. "My interaction with the faculty and students at UAH has been absolutely amazing. All of the faculty have been extremely helpful and friendly to me during my time at UAH. In fact, I am pretty sure I have been an annoyance to some professors because of all of the time I spent in their offices asking for help. The faculty here really want what's best for the students, and they take time to make sure students are actually learning and engaged," Shields said. "Students at UAH are very fortunate…we benefit from a diverse campus. My interaction with students from different countries, majors, and nationalities has been a wonderful experience for me. I have made many connections and memories that will stay with me forever."

Shields's immediate future includes a new job and returning to UAH as a full time graduate student in the spring of 2018. He is the son of Jeffery and Angela Shields, and he has two brothers, Julian and Jarren.

***EDITOR'S NOTE: Stanton Rowe ('75 BS, Biological Sciences) corporate vice president at Edwards Lifesciences, will give the UAH fall commencement address on Sunday, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m., in the Von Braun Center Propst Arena in downtown Huntsville. No tickets are required for guests. Family members and guests attending fall commencement are encouraged to arrive early (doors open as early as 1 p.m.) due to Von Braun Center (VBC) staff conducting bag searches. Here is a list of VBC Guest Rules and Regulations.


Joyce Anderson-Maples