Discipline: Science and Mathematics Education
Eduardo F. Santiago Vargas - University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus
Co-Author(s): Tahiri Fuentes, Nelson Alemar, Melody Seda, Yamil González, Graciany Lebrón, Sujeily Fonseca, Eduardo Pérez, and Jamel Peralta, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus
Middle school students in Puerto Rico whose economic status is limited experience a lack of interest to continue their studies in science and engineering. UPRM’s CREST: Nanotechnology Center of Biomedical, Environmental, and Sustainability Applications is reaching out to these middle school students in order to motivate them to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. Research has found that videogames can significantly increase the interest of high school students in the fields of nanotechnology, since they attract the participation of individuals across many demographic boundaries (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, and educational status). Research has also proven that playing videogames can reduce reaction times, improve hand-eye coordination, and even raise the player’s self-esteem. Although results vary from student to student, videogames, when applied in a correct time frame, create a comfortable learning atmosphere, reducing stress so they can learn without feeling obligated. A recent study in Australia shows that 15-year-old students who play online games almost every day score 15 and 17 points above the average in math/reading and science, respectively, since gameplay stimulates students to apply and/or sharpen any knowledge learned in school by making them solve series of puzzles before moving on to the next game level. Videogame technology brings new challenges to the education arena, representing one technique that may be available to the classroom teacher. By combining CREST’s purpose and the educational benefits that videogames provide, we decided to develop a nanotechnology-oriented videogame. The main objective of this project is to create an accessible videogame that teaches the basic concepts of nanotechnology in a deeper level. With this tool, students from all communities will learn more about the different advances in STEM fields through entertaining media rather than by reading books, and students from disadvantaged communities will be encouraged to pursue a career in science and technology. We have been able to develop two nearly-completed levels and have a third one in advanced stages of implementation. The first level is a platformer, where the player must walk and jump in order to collect atoms with information, as well as defeat enemies with the help of a ferrofluid-launcher. The second level consists of a dynamic solar-powered vehicle, which the student must drive around, also collecting atoms, and charging the car’s energy-power by finding light sources throughout different mazes. After various showcases, we noticed that new metrics should be chosen for the measurement of the project’s success since the students only talk about what they like and dislike, instead of whether or not they are learning. We also learned that they are only paying attention to the ‘fun’ part of the videogame and not on what is happening throughout the levels; and that we are not getting enough user-developer interaction, as the Evolutionary Prototyping Model requires, making it more difficult to assess design problems earlier. Therefore, we must modify our game design and software development model, so students have better knowledge of the game objectives.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): CREST
Faculty Advisor: Nayda G. Santiago, Nayda.Santiago@ece.uprm.edu
Role: Unity provides the necessary tools to make a complete functional 2D or 3D game. In order to give objects and the gameplay the behaviors we desire, we create our scripts in C#. We use the Console Window for errors, warning, and other messages generated by Unity at runtime. We have been able to develop two nearly-completed levels and have a third one in advanced stages of implementation. The first level is a platformer, where the player must walk and jump in order to collect atoms with information, as well as defeat enemies with the help of a ferrofluid-launcher. The second level consists of a dynamic solar-powered vehicle, which the student must drive around, also collecting atoms, and charging the car’s energy-power by finding light sources throughout different mazes.