Academic game development: practices and design strategies for creating STEM games
Mark Edwin Stenerson, Iowa State University, United States
Iowa State University . Awarded
In the last decade, there has been an increase in legislation and funding that aims to get students in the United States interested in fields involving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in order to keep the United States competitive with other countries in these important academic areas. However, making these topics interesting and engaging to students has been challenging. A 2010 report by the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology concluded that schools in the United States lack passionate teachers and adequate tools to teach these subjects. Due to these deficiencies, “too many American students conclude early in their education that STEM subjects are boring, too difficult, or unwelcoming, leaving them ill-prepared to meet the challenges that will face their generation, their country, and the world” (President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2010). Therefore, it could be surmised that something further needs to be done in order to promote these fields to students at a young age.
The Meta!Blast project was developed to provide a medium that lends itself to the comprehension of cell and metabolic biology by placing the student into a virtual plant cell and allowing them to experience plant biology first-hand (Wurtele, 2011). By taking advantage of existing agile development methodologies, Meta!Blast has been designed to meet many of the challenges of developing video games in an academic environment. Using a special editor, educators and researchers can also modify in-game content in an effort to tailor the game to their specific curriculum needs.
Due to the massive, explorative environment in which the game places players, Meta!Blast provides an ideal environment for a variety of other STEM-related mini-games. By leveraging existing methods of current software used to teach computer science, the initial development stage of a mini-game within Meta!Blast called TALUS (Technology Assisted Learning Using Sandbox) has been designed to let players experience different computer programming concepts. The first iteration has shown that an environment can be created that allows players to interact with actual computer code in a fail-safe and non-violent manner; furthermore, it has the potential to augment a player's existing knowledge of computer programming.
Stenerson, M.E. Academic game development: practices and design strategies for creating STEM games. Master's thesis, Iowa State University. Retrieved February 21, 2019 from https://www.learntechlib.org/p/120248/.
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