WPU Alumnus designs flight simulations for Italian company

February 22, 2022

Tommaso Villa ’20 spends his days in Italy designing flight simulations for helicopters. 

As a Software Developer at Alten Italia, Villa creates simulations that can save lives. For example, his simulations allow firefighters to enhance their flight skills in a digital environment.

To create these simulations, his team creates digital 3D environments to reconstruct scenarios pilots might encounter, like forest fires. The team also has to create the helicopter with controls that mimic its movements. Villa specifically helps to integrate all of these elements together. 

By creating these simulations, Villa feels he can help save lives.

Villa found his passion in simulation design at William Peace University (WPU). Villa graduated in 2020 with a major in simulation and game development while obtaining a 4.0 grade point average.

“I love gaming and design simulation because it is essentially useful art,” Villa said. “It’s something people can interact with.”

Born in Varese, Italy, Villa moved to North Carolina when his dad received a job in the state. He moved before the start of his senior year of high school and had to adjust to a new school while in an unfamiliar culture and language. 

When Villa graduated high school, he felt unsure of his next steps. He decided to enroll in Wake Technical Community College to explore simulation and gaming design. Villa had an interest in the field as he loved video games — they gave him a way to stay connected with his friends in Italy. 

While at Wake Tech, Villa heard about WPU’s Simulation and Game Design (SGD) program. WPU and Wake Tech partnered for a degree initiative that guaranteed Villa admission to WPU’s SGD program while transferring many of his Wake Tech credits. 

That program and Peace’s campus environment encouraged Villa to transfer his junior year. 

Since Villa was at WPU, the University has expanded its SGD program. In Fall 2021, WPU launched two new bachelor degree programs: Interactive Design and ESports and Gaming Administration, complementing the 30+ other majors offered by WPU. These two new degrees complement the current major of Simulation and Game Design, which WPU has offered for the past eight years.

Students in all of these degree programs experience an immersive approach to learning.

In Fall 2021, WPU also invested and opened a brand new ESports lab in the basement level of Ross Residence Hall.

Villa embraced the small, close-knit community he found at Peace. He remembers he often would grab lunch with professors like Roger Christman, Department Chair of Art, Communication, and Simulation and Gaming Design. He felt like he had a second family on campus.

Along with that, Villa’s classes taught him necessary skills for his career.

In an immersive learning course, Villa gained hands-on experience with Virtual and Augmented Reality. In the semester-long course, students created an interactive demonstration app. The project taught him both technical and team skills.

Villa stretched his critical thinking skills through philosophy and magazine writing courses. In a resume-building course, he found the courage to apply and interview for jobs. “The knowledge I have now is thanks to Peace,” he said. 

While at WPU, Villa also played on the tennis team. He loved his time on the team so much that he recommends everyone try a sport in college. 

“College is not just learning in books but is about learning through experiences and interacting with other people, like in tennis,” he said. “Tennis helped me meet new people and find my confidence to open up.”

After Villa graduated, he started a job at Milestone S.r.l in Italy where he worked as a Software Tester. In his role, he tested the quality of simulations and games for bike racing. “It was a good and very fun first job,” he recalled. 

Now, Villa is passionate about his current job at Alten Italia creating flight simulations for helicopters. 

To him, the simulation industry is fascinating. “Each aspect of it could take a lifetime to learn,” he explained. 

He enjoys working in his home country, as well. Though, Peace helped him to find a second home in the United States.