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Battle aliens, save world, learn chemistry

Two university professors have combined their knowledge of science and videogames to create a game that helps students learn chemistry.
Students can learn about chemistry playing a video game that uses beakers and test tubes to battle aliens and other forces trying to destroy the earth by increasing global warming.
Students can learn about chemistry playing a video game that uses beakers and test tubes to battle aliens and other forces trying to destroy the earth by increasing global warming.Purdue News Service
/ Source: Reuters

Two university professors have combined their knowledge of science and videogames to create a game that helps students learn chemistry.

Instead of using books, beakers and test tubes, students battle aliens and other mysterious forces that are trying to destroy the earth by increasing global warming.

“Using gaming technology to supplement science instruction involves a different level of interactivity for students,” said Carlos Morales, an associate professor of computer graphics technology at Purdue University in Indiana.

“Listening to lectures and taking tests is not authentic to the real world and the way we learn concepts,” he added in a statement.

Morales, who used to work as a commercial game developer for Microsoft’s Xbox, realized that when students applied what they knew they retained the information better.

Together with Gabriela Weaver, an associate professor of chemical education and physical chemistry who had been working on more interesting ways to teach science, he developed the idea.

“I was somewhat familiar with video games, and what I had noticed with those I know who play them is their addictive quality, especially among young people,” Weaver said.

“I was taken aback by how involved game players become in the game microworlds, how that world inside the game works, how players learn to navigate in that world and continuously strive to improve their performance.”

With help from students in Morales’ computer graphics technology game and simulation development class they devised the game in which the main character travels through seven rooms to battle the evil forces trying to destroy the planet.

In each room there is a chemistry-based challenge that the student must perform to go to the next level. If all the challenges are met a nuclear reactor is blown up and the planet is saved.

“If done correctly, the user will be able to save the planet from global warming by thwarting the aliens’ plans and destroying the reactor,” said Weaver.

Morales and Weaver, who presented their research at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, are now testing and evaluating the game on Purdue students.

Although it will never replace traditional teaching, they believe it could lower student trepidation about chemistry and reinforce what is taught in the classroom.