SBIR Phase I: A Collaborative Aerospace Vehicle Design Game in Support of Engineering Curricula for Grades 9-12

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

VSI Aerospace Inc.
2716 SE 5th St Suite 3
Ames, IA 50010
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project involves the development of the Design environment for Aerospace Vehicles in Classroom Interaction (DAVinCI). DAVinCI is a collaborative, guided inquiry environment and game targeted for grades 9-12. This concept will integrate aerospace vehicle design and simulation tools with a design challenge-based game inspired by real world engineering problems. The environment is intended to be a hybrid of self-directed informal learning and software that can support in-class projects and topics and/or be utilized by students outside of class. Students will be guided through the required background in science, mathematics and engineering principles and encouraged to explore and utilize these principles in vehicle design. Engaging pre-college students with engineering design methodology is one way to advance Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and increase the number of STEM college graduates. Aerospace vehicle design in particular is a powerful, versatile exciting platform to expose students to many facets of science and engineering, as it is truly a multidisciplinary endeavor. The anticipated Phase I results are beta tests of a proof-of-concept engineering design game containing a full chapter of content and design challenges. The broader impact and commercial potential of this project is a game that fills a niche for Grade 9-12 for engineering education. There are a number of planned avenues for initial commercialization, including sales to schools, parents, and of auxiliary features such as expansion packs and hobby kits. Future commercial opportunities will include stand-alone design-based games, design environments for hobbyists, and model generation tools for flight simulators. Engineering design promotes added interconnectivity and enrichment in STEM education. Improved connection to practical applications could also improve student performance in the sciences, technology, and mathematics. If successful, DAVinCI would be an excellent way to inspire students to consider careers in the sciences and engineering at formative points in their education. While there are numerous commercial software products to assist with the learning and teaching of science, technology, and mathematics, there are few products that attempt to address engineering education, and even fewer that attempt to do so in a largely informal manner that integrates game mechanics and design methodology. The tight integration of the design and game environments maintains the engagement of students to support classroom activities and continue reinforcement of concepts outside of class.