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Students designing alternative to popular gaming consoles

Senior+Anthony+Pezzulli+tests+certain+parts+of+his+Project+Phi+system%2C+a+computer+Pezzulli+and+senior+Connor+Redding+hopes+to+rival+popular+consoles.
Senior Anthony Pezzulli tests certain parts of his Project Phi system, a computer Pezzulli and senior Connor Redding hopes to rival popular consoles.

Senior Anthony Pezzulli tests certain parts of his Project Phi system, a computer Pezzulli and senior Connor Redding hopes to rival popular consoles.

Parker Nolan

Parker Nolan

Senior Anthony Pezzulli tests certain parts of his Project Phi system, a computer Pezzulli and senior Connor Redding hopes to rival popular consoles.

Cameron Stapleton, A&E Editor

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While millions of people all around the world log into their console of choice to enjoy a video game, far fewer people ever think about making their own console or PC. But seniors Anthony Pezzulli and Connor Redding have done just that, dubbing their new idea Project Phi.

“We were brainstorming problems we saw in the real world that we could try and solve through this class and I had a couple of ideas that didn’t really fly,” Pezzulli said.  “I pitched to Coach [Brian Lidington], ‘Hey, what about making a computer that was small and could compete with consoles?’ But Connor already had that idea and Coach just kind of put us together.”

Once in a group, the two brought different skill sets to the table.

“The workload has been pretty even between the two of us,” Redding said. “I have done a lot more research, but Anthony has done a lot more paperwork. We have been working on this intermittently throughout the year, because we have been working on this and the robot for VEX. I would say in total, we have put a month and a half of work into the project.”

The duo spent $600 on the project and built the machine themselves. For those on the fence about dropping more money for this PC over an Xbox or a PS4, Redding assures that this is the way to go.  

“This can run everything better than a PS4 Pro or Xbox One,” Redding said. “One of the best things about this is the modularity. Our two big tenets are simplicity and modularity.”

Simplicity means making the Project Phi easy to recognize and then buy.

“The first one, simplicity, is that little Timmy wants to get a console or a PC,” Redding explained. “Well, right now, he can’t really ask grandma for a PC for Christmas because there is just too much to it, but he can go ‘I want an Xbox,’ and Timmy’s grandma can go ‘Oh, I know how to buy that.’ What we are trying to do is come into the market with a PC to where little Timmy can go ‘I want this…I want the Project Phi,’ and grandma can go, ‘I can buy that.’”

Modularity includes making the Project Phi easily accessible and modifiable.

“But, in addition to that, we offer modularity,” Redding continued. “Say, in about two to three years, the graphics card or the CPU is a little bit slower, they want more performance out of the machine, they don’t have to go out and buy a whole new $500-$600 dollar console. What they can do is go buy a $100- $200 dollar part and just pop that in there instead.”

Another plus of the Project Phi would be its lack of paid subscriptions to play online, such as Xbox Live or Playstation Plus.

“Speaking on this as a comparison to a console, you don’t have to pay for Xbox Gold, you don’t have to pay for online service,” Pezzulli said. “You can do more on this than you can on a normal Xbox. You can do everything you can on a normal computer while playing games, for the price of an Xbox.”

Like a regular PC, Project Phi will offer choice for players when deciding on their input system, whether it be mouse and keyboard or a controller.    

“So when you are in the Xbox or PS4 market, you’re locked into a controller,” Redding said. “With a PS4, you use the PS4 controller, and with an Xbox, you use the Xbox One controller. With PC, you can use a Logitech controller, a PS4 controller, an Xbox controller, a keyboard and mouse, you can use whatever you want. You get to choose your own input. There’s even people on YouTube using microwaves as inputs for their computers.”    

As of right now, the Project Phi runs an Ubuntu operating system, which is described on their website as “Open source, OpenStack software and tools for private and public clouds,”  instead of the latest version of Microsoft Windows. Redding says this will change in the future to rival the Steam Machines on the market currently.

“We will be running full Windows,” Redding said. “That’s a big plus. Not only that, but you’re gonna get more performance out of this. One of the big things about the current Steam Machines on the market, the biggest one comes from Dell and is an Alienware. You can’t change out the graphics card or the CPU, you can only change out the RAM or the hard drive.”  

As for what this project has taught them, it encompasses more than just technology for Redding who noted that he’s learned about “the materials you need for investment, like the amount of paperwork that goes into investment.”

As for the future of the Project Phi, while there is still work to do, the duo are hopeful.

“We are trying to get wholesale prices down as well as get more seat investing so that we can build about 10 prototypes and have those distributed among people just to get feedback from them and see what we can improve upon the project,” Redding said. “Going on from there, we are looking to go out and get manufacturing and move into an actual company instead of the semi-company R&D phase we are in right now.”

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Students designing alternative to popular gaming consoles