SBIR Phase I: A Virtual-World Game for Augmenting the Classroom with Interdisciplinary, Collaborative STEM Learning

Period of Performance: 12/15/2016 - 05/31/2017

$225K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Strange Loop Games
2820 E Madison St STE 304
Seattle, WA 98112
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

This project will develop an immersive and dynamic multi-player game that addresses a pressing need to provide engaging technologies that prepare students to apply collaborative, cross-disciplinary scientific practices to global societal challenges. In an augmented classroom with their real life peers, students must establish a colony on Mars that is capable of sustaining thousands of refugees from Earth. To successfully achieve their goal, students must use raw materials found on Mars to produce components necessary for life support and building, such as food, water, oxygen, and fuel. In the weeks that this simulation runs alongside their real classroom, students will apply cross-disciplinary STEM knowledge and practices to experience how both individual and collective actions have short- and long-term effects. The game and supporting curriculum will address content from the Next Generation Science Standards and ultimately help adolescent youth understand the need for the integration of science and engineering to tackle critical issues such as the production of clean energy, identification and treatment of disease, the allocation of adequate food and water, and global environmental change (NRC, 2011). Creating educational games that more closely mirror their AAA counterparts provides an opportunity to draw diverse genders and underrepresented youth into STEM-related fields. This project?' goal is to create "virtual field trips" that augment a classroom and run simultaneous to it, providing applications and experiential learning in a highly engaging social environment. It will build upon previous proprietary technology that enables simultaneous online interactions, complex distributed simulations, and data gathering in shared virtual worlds. This allows the project in its initial phase to focus not only on developing a quality game for students but also on designing and testing high-risk approaches to classroom integration. This game includes the teacher and suggests actions that alter narrative arcs, provide students with key knowledge, or increase or constrain other material resources students have available. Teachers will be able to leverage data collected on student game play to pair small, dynamic groupings of students with high impact mini-lessons to allow the project to actively support teachers as they implement personalized, data-driven instruction. By including a teacher-friendly assessment toolkit, the project can operate within districts' current requirements while experimenting with the future of educational gaming in the classroom. Phase I research will focus on usability and impact on student learning, as well as attempt to understand how willing teachers are to accept and use the teacher support features.