June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
13.638.1 - 13.638.11
Geckoman – An Interactive Game Based on the Principles of Nanoscale Forces
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) (in collaboration with Metaversal Studios, a company specializing in educational games), has created an educational videogame targeted at children ages 10-14. The game, Geckoman, teaches scientific principles of nanotechnology and helps children differentiate between the nanoscale and the macroscale. The premise of Geckoman is that through an explosion of an incredible shrinking machine, budding scientist Harold is shrunk to the nanoscale. His lab partner, Nikki, helps him navigate three “worlds”, beginning at the nanoscale and growing slightly larger until returning to normal size. Before exiting each level in all three “worlds”, Harold must also pick up one of Nikki’s notebook pages, which were scattered in the explosion. The notebook pages provide short tips and lessons that are mapped to national and Massachusetts state K-12 science and engineering standards.
1. Background and game description
An original videogame has been created, inspired by the popular “platformer” (Mario Bros.) and “beat-em-up” (Streets of Rage) game genres, designed to teach children ages 10-14 about principals of nanoscale science and engineering. The Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) began production on Geckoman in the summer of 2006, first creating a trailer and video walkthrough demonstration of gameplay prior to an NSF site visit. The enthusiastic reaction to the videos convinced CHN to use outreach funds to create a game that would make nanotechnology not only accessible for kids, but also engaging and fun.
In creating the game, the developers experimented with a variety of concepts, drawing inspiration from various traditional videogames and attempting to match them to important nanotechnology concepts. As a starting point for the science of the game, the team explored the relationship between the size of an object and its adhesion through van der Waals forces. Sketches for several different puzzle-type games were composed, but one idea quickly rose to the top as the most interesting and accessible route to this information. Geckos use a strong force at the nanoscale, van der Waals forces, to “stick” to surfaces and became the focus of the game.
World 1 (Fig.1) consists of nine levels in a setting of a Wild West town that is suspended, upside down, on the ceiling of Harold’s lab (issues of fantasy vs. reality in science will be explored later in this paper). The player (Harold) advances through the levels by entering the “gold mines” at the end of each level. The main concept of World 1 is focused on van der Waals forces that allow nanoscale Harold to “defy gravity” and walk on the ceiling. If Harold’s weight (from picking up too many items, for example) exceeds his adhesive force, it will cause him to fall from the ceiling and lose a “life”. As with most action videogames, players are given multiple lives so that they can learn through trial and error; they can earn additional “lives” to prolong the game through various bonuses, which are designed to reward learning.
Isaacs, J., & Laird, J., & Regalla, L., & Barry, C., & Busnaina, A. (2008, June), Geckoman – An Interactive Game Based On The Principals Of Nanoscale Forces Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3830
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