June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Educational Research and Methods
11.584.1 - 11.584.15
Enhancing Engineering Outreach with Interactive Game Assessment
The need to educate general public about technology grows with broadening gap between technology use and its understanding in a consumer society. One of the effective venues for such education is that of hands-on museums, which engage a wide spectrum of visitors. This paper reports on the use of a data collection mechanism embedded in an interactive museum exhibit that highlights principles of modern consumer product engineering. The exhibit is comprised of a set of computer games and complementary physical displays. The games have a built-in data collection system tracking users’ actions while playing the game. Collected data allows for demographic analysis of visitor population, user performance assessment, and provides game-play perspective useful for effective game design. Presented results are based on a year-long study involving about 17,000 museum visitors.
1.0 Outreach in the Form of a Museum Exhibit: Overview of the Project
Government funding supports research work on the cutting edge of manufacturing technologies, but the general population’s understanding of manufacturing processes, equipment, and careers lags far behind that edge. To bridge the gap, the NSF Engineering Research Center for reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems (ERC/RMS) at the University of Michigan invested in the creation of a museum exhibit to be installed at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, a children’s science center. Informal learning environments, like museums, align well with outreach efforts because they share many goals: to intrigue, educate, and inspire visitors. Science museums in particular have become more conscious of their role as an auxiliary to the education that occurs in traditional classrooms, striving to encourage interest in science10 and to present science policy issues9 that might not get addressed in the classroom.
This exhibit is divided into three parts, reflecting three interrelated fields required to bring a product to market: design, manufacturing, and marketing/business.6,8 Each of the three parts of the exhibit was designed to emphasize the processes, tools, and careers of its field, through an interactive computer game as well as through hands-on exhibit components. The computer games were designed to be deployable both within the physical exhibit as well as online, to extend the outreach beyond the exhibit’s physical location (see Figure 1).
The first game in the series, Design Station, invites the visitor to help employees of a design firm as they attempt to design a pen that will sell well. The visitor engages in market research and uses the results of that research to select pen components likely to please members of the market. The second game in the series, Some Assembly Required, introduces visitors to several characters engaged in different occupational roles related to manufacturing, such as a manufacturing engineer, a machine technician, and a floor manager. These characters introduce the visitor to the tools (e.g. injection molders and extruders) and tasks that he or she engages in – like machine calibration and the routing
Lyons, L., & Pasek, Z. (2006, June), Enhancing Engineering Outreach With Interactive Game Assessment Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1217
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