STTR Phase I: A Simulated Anaerobic Digester Learning Tool

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

$225K

Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

BioDrill Technical Solutions, LLC
125 Tech Park Drive
Rochester, NY 14623
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Research Institution

Rochester Institute of Technology
One Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, NY 14623

Abstract

This SBIR Phase I project proposes to create an innovative educational game that engages secondary school students in learning about the science of anaerobic digestion and the business of biogas production. The Simulated Anaerobic Digester Learning Tool is a casual, simulation-based game that teaches students about the physicochemical operation of an anaerobic digester, as well as an entrepreneurial game that teaches about the new economic model of the 'triple bottom line' of sustainable business practice of balancing the concerns of people, the planet, and profit. This innovative game experience meets the growing need for real-world interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) problems as a motivational and driving force for education. There are no existing accurate anaerobic digestion simulators that are accessible to secondary school students. Currently existing models of anaerobic digestion, such as Anaerobic Digestion Model No. 1 (ADM1), are used by researchers at universities, and involve computational and mathematical complexity beyond the grasp of secondary school students. Phase I of the project involves simplifying the complexity of the model while retaining its accuracy in the creation of an engaging game for secondary school students. The broader/commercial impact of The Simulated Anaerobic Digester Learning Tool are: 1) The Learning Tool is aligned with current reforms in science education. The new Next Generation Science Standards, based on the National Research Council's Framework for K-12 Science Education necessitate the increased use of real-world topics that can be made comprehensible only by drawing on ideas and methods from many scientific disciplines. Biogas generation through anaerobic digestion is complex and interdisciplinary in a real world context and thus is an excellent vehicle for STEM learning. 2) The game incorporates research into gender inclusiveness and exploration of social and ethical issues, and its development will include traditionally underrepresented students. Beta-testing will take place in high school classrooms of a high-needs rural school district and a high-need urban school district with an 86% minority population and a 49% graduation rate, in which 88.4% of students qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches. 3) Commercially, the game has tremendous potential to be marketed in a variety of science courses in both secondary and post-secondary education, including Biology and Environmental Science as well as interdisciplinary courses in Integrated STEM, Sustainability, and Agriculture.