A pair of Purdue University professors have partnered to create a new serious themed educational game designed to assist high school and early college students in learning chemistry.
The project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, began following work that Gabriela Weaver, an associate professor of chemical education and physical chemistry, had been doing in chemistry education. "I wanted to capture that same enthusiasm by incorporating chemistry concepts and creating an educational and entertaining game," she commented.
Weaver, together with Carlos Morales, an associate professor of computer graphics technology and former Xbox game developer, created the educational game with the assistance of students in Morales' computer graphics technology game and simulation development class.
"Using gaming technology to supplement science instruction involves a different level of interactivity for students," said Morales. "Listening to lectures and taking tests is not authentic to the real world and the way we learn concepts...When students are made to apply what they know, they learn and retain information much more effectively."
Weaver provided the scientific information, and Morales and his class took over the game design. Computer science students also helped with programming aspects of the project, which focuses on the modern day hot topic of global warming.
In the game, the main character battles forces trying to destroy the Earth by global warming through the release of carbon dioxide. The character must travel through a series of seven rooms in a facility and fight off aliens and other enemies with tools that emit acid or tools that heat or cool. Every room has its own set of chemistry-based challenges the student must figure out to exit the room.
The professors now plan to test and evaluate the game using Purdue freshmen and sophomores who have had the introductory chemistry course. After this semester, revisions will be made based on the results and feedback from students. Both Weaver and Morales add that the next step could see the game being used more widely in other high schools and colleges.
"I don't see this as a substitute for a chemistry class, but it offers other benefits," noted Weaver. "It can have particular value used as homework, not replacing what is taught in class, but instead reinforcing it."
The game was showcased by Morales and Weaver recently during the American Chemical Society's 233rd National Meeting & Exposition in Chicago, and is expected to be demonstrated publicly later this month on April 11 at Purdue University to examine how video games can serve to engage students and supplement classroom materials, especially in scientific subjects.