STTR Phase I: Robot Rescue Responder-Learning Robot Programming through Playing Computer Games

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014

$225K

Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Moai Technologies, LLC
MAPLE GROVE, MN 55369
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Research Institution

University of Minnesota
450 McNamara Alumni Center
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Abstract

This STTR Phase I project proposes to develop an interactive computer game to promote interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for high school students. The game will use NSF-funded technologies to teach students how to program and control robots while simultaneously maintaining student interest through the entertainment of playing a real time strategy (RTS) game. The proposed game will be targeted at high school students with no prior knowledge of robotics programming, however could easily be adapted to include greater levels of difficulty aimed at early level college courses, extra-curricular robotics clubs, and private at home consumer use. It will enhance the STEM learning environment by having robot programs written by the student become an actual piece (sub-algorithm) of the game during play (giving the student greater satisfaction and accomplishment). This is innovative from the point that current interactive computer games have the player select options and choices but game entities are manually manipulated with a game controller, etc. The broader/commercial impact resulting from the proposed activity is that this effort pushes into new territory in the teaching of STEM concepts to students. The novelty of our approach is in having the students learn how to program robots by (a) providing all of the tools of a program development environment along with (b) the ability to have the programs written by the student to be part of an entertaining game. This is a leap beyond current educational games that merely expose the student to the desired concepts or have the student interact with the game by selecting options and choices as the process of playing the game. The leap is that the student is not just selecting something, but she is writing the software that controls a robotic entity of the game; in short, they are programming a piece of the game. They write a robot program; they see how it works in the game environment; and then they can rewrite and optimize their software to improve their playing of the game. The proposed game has the commercial potential to tap a huge market of organizations interested in STEM education.