Asee peer logo

First Look at a Video Game for Teaching Dynamics

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Teaching Dynamics

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

22.717.1 - 22.717.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Brianno Coller Northern Illinois University

visit author page

Brianno Coller is an Associate Professor of Mechanical engineering. He started his research career applying fairly deep mathematical ideas to gain insight into how complex physical and engineering systems work. His work was theoretical and somewhat abstract. Since then, his research has evolved toward studying a different type of complex system: how students learn and become excited about engineering. In this endeavor, Dr. Coller is mostly a "nuts & bolts" practitioner, an engineer, and an experimentalist.

visit author page

Download Paper |


A Video Game for Teaching DynamicsFor decades, education scholars have been studying video games. They have found that the mostsuccessful games “teach” their players how to solve complex problems. Problems within a videogame typically start off rather easy and then progressively get more difficult as players’ skillsdevelop. Players are motivated to learn within video games because it is clear that knowledge ispowerful. The learning is situated, and occurs through a process of hypothesizing, probing, andreflecting upon the simulated world within the game. The goals are clear. Games provide playersimmediate and unambiguous feedback on how well they are progressing. Information becomesavailable to players at just the time they will be able to make sense of it and use it.Within the highly engaging techniques that game designers employ to get players to “learn” thegame, one finds echoes of modern learning pedagogies such as constructionism, inquiry-basedlearning, and anchored instruction. According to Koster, a game becomes fun when it requiresplayers to gain new skills at a deep level that get “chunked” and absorbed into the subconsciousmind, and then requires players to apply the skills/knowledge toward some goal. Furthermore, itremains fun if it requires players to gain new skills/knowledge, or transfer their skills to newproblems within the game. Ideally, this is the type of “fun” one would like engineering educationto be.In the conference paper, we shall describe an initial effort to create a video game that mechanicalengineering undergraduates can play and learn fundamental principles of engineering dynamics.The effort builds upon our previous experience and success in using a video game to help teach adynamic systems & control course and a computational methods course. The new video game,however, differs in its scope. Rather than using the game to anchor most of the instruction in thecourse, as we did previously, the new game targets specific learning outcomes. By making thegame more narrowly focused, we can more carefully study how specific game features impactthose learning outcomes.In the paper, we shall describe the new game and provide preliminary results of an experiment inwhich half of the students used a fully functioning version of the game, while the second half ofthe students used a version which has more primitive graphics and audio. In the study, learningwas measured by students’ performance on a subset of the Dynamics Concept Inventory.

Coller, B. (2011, June), First Look at a Video Game for Teaching Dynamics Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17998

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015