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Pace Students' App Puts An Arcade Spin On Zika Virus

Front Row: Russell Gee and Marcus Ferreira. Back Row: Nida Butt and Pedro Borges Pio Photo Credit: Pace
In Zika Defender, players kill mosquitos before they are able to reach humans. Photo Credit: Google Play

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- As the world's best athletes descend on Brazil for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, participants have found themselves battling an invisible and unplanned adversary: Zika virus. For a group of Pace students, educating the public on this mosquitos-borne virus required impressive development skills and a healthy dose of fun.

Nida Butt, Marcus Ferreira, Russell Gee and Pedro Borges Pio, classmates in a software engineering class at Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, wanted to develop a fun, interactive way to educate the public on this hot-button disease. After hours of developing and testing, their result is Zika Defender, an Android app that is as entertaining as it is enlightening.

Borrowing from popular arcade-style apps, Zika Defender challenges players to slow the spread of the Zika virus by eliminating infected mosquitoes from reaching humans. As the game progresses, players not only are greeted with more difficult challenges but learn facts about the virus as well.

Making a complex problem fun and approachable was no easy task. "The biggest challenge when designing the app was figuring out how to present the app in a fun, creative way while representing a serious topic like the Zika Virus," said Butt, one of the group members. "We wanted the app to be informative while holding people's attention in an entertaining way."

"The Zika virus is a disease that was underestimated by many countries throughout the world, especially the United States," said Butt. "As awareness of this disease grew, we wanted to enhance the attention the disease holds in the world today. As a result, we hope that people can be more informed about the potential threat it poses, not only in countries like Brazil, but throughout the world."

As for marketing Zika Defender, the team is weighing their options as the disease continues to gain notoriety. Butt and Gee graduated from Pace this Spring while Ferreira and Pio, both international students, are juniors. "In the future, we may collectively decide to either market it as is or add to its present design before introducing it to the general public," said Butt. Until then, Android users are able to download and play Zika defender via Google Play store.

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