Category: Events

National Chemistry Week 2018

Next week is National Chemistry Week 2018! National Chemistry Week is an annual event hosted by the American Chemistry Society across the nation in order to get kids interested in the field. Each year has a new theme: last year’s was Chemistry Rocks and focused on geochemistry. This year, Chemistry is Out of the This World!

To get you started celebrating this event, we collected resources and pulled out a few highlights to get you started on planning the week. Check it out!

National Chemistry Week Events

National Chemistry Week 2018

The ACS has plenty of tips when it comes to organizing events in your area for NCW. From recruiting volunteers to getting access to local venues, and more, the resources on the website are meant to help teachers and interested parties prepare for the week!

The community event for this year is planning a trip to a planetarium or science museum. Find one nearby and bring your kids or students there to learn about outer space! It fits into the year’s theme of Out of This World. Use an established tour, make one yourself, or see if its possible to customize the experience to the age group you’re targeting. You could even scale it down to a visit to the local library to check out books about outer space.

Chemistry Experiments and Activities

If you don’t want to organize a field trip for the event, try out some suggested activities and experiments instead. In honor of National Chemistry Week, the ACS holds an illustrated poem competition. Consider inviting students to join for a full on STEAM activity. There’s even a prize for the first and second place winner. Check out all the requirements here.

If you would rather stick with an experiment, the ACS has you covered on that regard too. Their Celebrating Chemistry packet is full of themed experiments. Students could make their own UV wristband or even create oxygen. They’re all relatively easy to set up, so see what might work for you.

Out of This World with ExoTrex!

Of course, we can’t get through an event about space travel without throwing our own space exploration learning game into the mix. ExoTrex casts players as an astronaut trying to find a new home for humanity in outer space. Chemistry, physics, and more are all included in the experience, so try it out for yourself to see how the game can enhance STEM education in the classroom!

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Hispanic Heritage Month: Resources for Teachers

What Is Hispanic Heritage Month?

Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of Americans whose ancestry can be traced to Spain, Mexico, or other Hispanic countries. The festival lasts from September 15 to October 15, starting in the middle of a month since September 15 marks the independence day of five seperate Hispanic countries. Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua all celebrate on that date.

The month particularly focuses on the arts and culture of Hispanic Americans, highlighting important figures from history, hosting music festivals, and even working with the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, and more organizations in DC. You can find out more about it and the events that comprise its duration in the DC area by looking at the official website. If you’re not from the DC area, don’t worry. This calendar features events from all over the country. So you can put something on your schedule no matter where you are!

Hispanic Heritage Month Resources

National Hispanic Heritage Month at the Smithsonian

Photo credit: Detail of Maíz Flor Serpiente/ Flower Maize Serpent commissioned digital art work by the Indigenous Design Collection, 2015.

While homeschools could consider scheduling a field trip to one of the events you can find above, teachers in the classroom might not be able to find time to bring their students out and about to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. However, thanks to how long the festival has been an established part of the calendar, there are already plenty of resources for bringing Hispanic Heritage Month into the classroom. Both the websites linked above bring you to plenty of helpful classroom resources.

The government site has links to resources from the Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Archives, National Park Service, and the Smithsonian Institution. Check them all out. On the other one, you can find many articles about Hispanic culture, scholarships, social impact, and more. While not all of them may be great for all classrooms, the resources can expand your knowledge as well.

For more traditional lesson plans, you can also find resources on the National Education Association site and on Scholastic. See how to bring in multi-cultural education into your classroom in celebration.

Excavate! MesoAmerica

Excavate! games MesoAmerican screenshot

While Excavate! MesoAmerica doesn’t cover every Hispanic ancestry, it’s a great, fun way to get students interested in the history and cultures of ancient MesoAmerica. Explore the Aztec, Inca, and Maya civilizations through interactive archaeology. Students can discover more about these MesoAmerican sites by deeply examining artifacts and stretching their critical thinking skills. Excavate! MesoAmerican also includes a Spanish language option!

Until September 30, all our Excavate! games are 30% off with the code BACKTOSCHOOL18, so snag yourself a copy during Hispanic Heritage Month to bring Hispanic history to your classroom.

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Games for Change: GBLxAPI & More

Games for Change Festival 2018

Games for Change seeks to discover how games can impact education, healthcare, research, civics, social issues, and more! We attended the 15th annual Games for Change Festival this year. During the conference, we saw the best of the industry! 

Also, we presented during the conference! Therefore, we wanted to share our experience at the Festival. Anyone who missed our presentation on GBLxAPI can get information here, along with info on the projects presented alongside us.

GBLxAPI

Our COO Stuart Claggett spoke about our revolutionary new learning analytics program at Games for Change. GBLxAPI has been in the works for years, funded in part by the National Science Foundation. Based off the xAPI standard, it recently positioned itself as the new community standard for K-12 learning analytics within the educational games and apps space.

Factuality

Factuality at Games for Change

Natalie Gillard came to speak about her board game Factuality at the conference. Factuality is a 90 minute crash course on structural inequality via game. Through its board game structure, it seeks to make its players comfortable with being uncomfortable. Also, in combination with facilitated dialogue, it gives them deeper understanding of how structured inequality works.

Queen Rania Foundation

Queen rania foundation at Games for Change

Aya Saket, Research and Program Development Officer at the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development, spoke about using games to teach math in Jordinian schools. According to its mission statement, QRF seeks to be the “premier resource on educational issues, in Jordan and around the Arab world, and to act as an incubator for new ideas and initiatives.”

Curiscope

Curiscope at Games for Change

Finally, Ed Barton spoke about his company Curiscope. At Curiscope, they focus on using VR and AR technology to inspire a love of science in students. Virtuali-Tee combines wearable tech with AR to create a deep lesson into the workings of the human body.

Future of Games for Change

Thanks to anyone who came out to see us talk GBLxAPI in person! Hopefully we’ll be back at the Games for Change Festival next year. We had a blast both presenting and listening to the other presentations during the three days in NYC. However, the talented people who presented alongside us are only the tip of the iceberg. So many energetic and passionate people have entered this field. If you didn’t attend this year, consider buying a ticket for the 16th annual festival!

Meanwhile, we continue to work on the analytics system and look forward to seeing how it will change the landscape of game-based learning.

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Computer Science Education Week

Computer Science Education Week

Computer Science Education Week was December 4-10 this year. This annual celebration focuses on the importance and promotion of computer science classes in US schools. According to their website, csedweek.org, there are over 400,000 computing jobs available in the country right now and only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce.

Working at a video game studio can definitely make one see the importance of this subject and the wide-ranging effects it has on daily life. Our office ranges in background from computer science majors to philosophy and education majors. Even with this range, computer science makes an impact on all of us.

Here’s what some of our team members had to say:

“Computer science helps me think logically, in life as well as at work. Because a computer only does exactly what it’s told, computer programmers must be very precise in their language, syntax, and style. This analytical mindset is beneficial for a number of real-world skills, including verbal and written communications, long-term planning, and problem-solving. Computer science is powerful because it’s given me the tools to succeed in many aspects of life.” – Reuben, Junior Developer

“Computer science allows me to create anything in the world I want … artistically… imagine that.” – Mikel, Senior 3D Artist

“In the dark pre-Internet days, I fell in love with programming in early high school after finding a book on how to program real time computer graphics on my family’s primitive computer, and went on to earn a BS in Computer Science in college.  Computer Science is a very detail oriented discipline where you create computer programs to instruct the computer on how to improve a complex system or how to efficiently solve a complex problem.  For me, Computer Science is fun because every day I get to create complex systems, solve abstract problems, and design engaging experiences for players in games.  Also, I really enjoy being a part of a team with other talented programmers, designers, artists, and educators that all strive to make really engaging games for our players.” – Jesse, Senior Developer

“Both of my parents were computer science majors and imparted the interest in technology and education on me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. ” – Elisa, Education Team

Promotion of Computer Science

In an effort to promote computer science, Dig-iT! Games often hosts field trips from student groups who want to see what we do every day. These experiences can really open the eyes of students who think that a career in computer science is boring or out of reach. If you are a teacher and are interested in a field trip (either in-person or virtual) please don’t hesitate to reach out. Check out our about page for more information about what we do and our mission-based philosophy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


World Space Week 2017

World Space Week iconThis week marks World Space Week which runs from October 4th to October 10th. The theme of this week is “Exploring New Worlds in Space” which, according to their website, “…serves to inspire the World. It puts as a focal point astrobiology missions like New Horizons (NASA’s first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt)” They also mention projects like Space X and Lockheed Martin’s Orion Multi-Purposed Crew Vehicle which all look to explore human interaction and inhabitation of space.  

This year we saw the dramatic Grand Finale of the Cassini space craft after a 13-year run orbiting Saturn, its moons, and rings. The craft was launched on October 15, 1997 and spent 7 years on a journey that took it near Venus, Earth, through the Asteroid Belt, around Jupiter, and then finally reaching orbit around Saturn. That was just the trip there!  

ExoTrex 2 is perfect for World Space WeekCassini also dropped off the Huygens Probe onto the surface of one of Saturn’s moons, Titan. This was the first time a craft had landed on the surface of an outer solar system world. The probe showed scientists a landscape that looked very similar to Earth’s with rivers, volcanoes, shores, and seas. However, the liquid is not water, but methane and ethane! 

Other discoveries included an ocean under the frozen surface of Enceladus, seven new moons, new images of massive storms at the poles of Saturn. After years of orbiting Saturn, power was beginning to run low so the team made the decision to send it into a death plunge. Scientists were worried if the power ran out that the craft could smash into one of the moons and cause damage so they decided to plunge it into Saturn’s atmosphere where it would burn up and lessen any potential damage.  

Our space exploration game, ExoTrex 2, uses some of the information we learned from the Cassini mission. In ExoTrex 2, players explore Venus, Mercury, and the moon Titan. They perform experiments, one of which is landing a rover on the surface of Titan! They must balance thrusters against the gravitational pull to accurately land it and then explore the cryovolcanoes and landscape of Titan to figure out if it is suitable for life. 

World Space Week was recognized by the UN General Assembly in 1999 and celebrates the effect of science and technology on the world each year. We support these initiatives and hope that our ExoTrex series can help to spark interest in these fields for the future generations. 

 

 

 


The Total Eclipse is a Start

Millions of people will look skyward today to witness the solar eclipse. The orbit of Earth and our moon have never been on so many minds at the same time.  During this event, we are experiencing something together on Earth as a united humanity.

 

ExoTrex and the eclipse

Exotrex2 – Dig-It! Games

Space has fascinated people from the dawn of time. People from the past spent nights gazing at the heavens and creating meaning from the milky way. For travelers, stars were used as guideposts.  Ancient civilizations used them to predict seasons, align temples and marvel at the periodic events like the eclipse we will soon witness today.  Not only do we witness this collectively today, we also connect to our ancestors who were sometimes deathly frightened by events like solar eclipses.

 

Our understanding of what is happening today comes on the shoulders of ancient and current astronomers. Over the course of lifetimes, they studied and observed space.  No longer are we fearful of what we are about to observe.  In fact, we are welcoming this once considered sign of doom-and-gloom.  We here at Dig-It! Games are also excited to be witnessing this rare event and one of our colleagues has been walking around with eclipse glasses in his pocket for weeks in great anticipation!

 

Space and the eclipse

Exotrex2 Dig-It! Games

We have many people to thank for our current understanding of space and we have been fortunate at Dig-It! Games to have teamed up with an amazing astrophysicist in the making of our game Exotrex.  Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi is an accomplished astrophysicist, cosmologist, inventor and currently an educator working with NASA who became the voice of our main character Dr. Gerald Burke.  It was great to work with him on the first episode of Exotrex and also to introduce him to students at Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C. to share his love for science and his life’s journey!

 

Exotrex challenges students to train as astronauts in preparation for an epic journey to find a new planet after life on Earth has become unsustainable.  It is an exciting and challenging program that prepares students for this harrowing mission.

Gameplay from ExoTrex

Exotrex2 Dig-It! Games

However, the fun and challenge does not stop there!  It is with great pleasure that we announce that Exotrex2 is now available for you to play!  Continue the quest to find a new planet for humanity by traveling to Mars, Titan, Mercury and Venus and explore the physical and chemical composition of each destination.  Collect your evidence and report your findings back to Dr. Burke.  Carefully land probes on distant planets, navigate land rovers to collect planetary samples and analyze their chemical composition all while exploring the entire solar system!  It will get you up in the stars much like our ancestors would have liked to do and much like many of us would like to do on a day like today!

After you watch the eclipse, get inspired and journey through space by playing Exotrex2 Today!


Teacher Appreciation Week 2017

By Chris Magnuson (@cromagnuson)

Tuesday, May 9th is National Teacher Appreciation Day and we here at Dig-It! Games have a host of teachers to thank!  We not only have to thank teachers who use our games in their classes but also every teacher who has taken the time to fill out one of our surveys, has play-tested our games individually or with students and every teacher who now stays up to date on game-based learning by following us on social media.  We are an educational video game company and we would not exist without you!

We recognize that there are many things piled on the proverbial plate of teachers from the state, the district, parents, students and your own personal drive to ignite learning in your students.  That is why we also recognize that the teachers who are seeking out video games to incorporate into the daily routine deserve recognition and appreciation.

Here is why we say thank you to all game-based learning teachers:

  • We know that the choice to seek out a game that fits your class is motivated by seeking to facilitate an engaging experience for your students. You want to ignite a spark of creativity, wonder, excitement or even an emotional experience.  In short you want to create a class that impacts your students.  We say thank you for your drive to make your class the best it can be.
  • Choosing a game takes time. You must find a game that connects to your curriculum and play it long enough to determine if it hits the learning objectives you have mapped out for your class.  We know that time is in short supply and we thank you for playing our games!
  • Once you have chosen a game that fits your class, there will need to be some customization of your lessons to connect it to your curriculum. We offer curriculum materials for many of our games but we also know that you will always customize them to fit your students’ needs.  We thank you for building the bridge between our games and your students.
  • Teaching is all about logistics! We know that choosing the game and scaffolding the lesson is only a part of a successful incorporation of a game into a course.  You may also have to secure the laptop cart, reserve the computer lab or at a minimum make sure all your devices are fully charged and student accounts established.  These steps can sometimes be time-consuming and tedious but absolutely necessary.  We thank you for making sure that students can access our games in your class!
  • During game playing you may also have to troubleshoot. Thank you!
  • When the laptops are closed and students have left your classroom, your work is not done. You will look at data reports on how students did while playing the games or devise assessments that incorporate game-play to show what students have learned and also to help justify your decision to use games in the classroom.  We thank you for taking this extra step!

These steps demonstrate that incorporating games into the classroom is not a simple process but we know that you do it because you want to create an experience for students they will never forget.  We say thank you!

Now for the free stuff!

In the spirit of Teacher Appreciation Day, we would also like to say thank you by offering you one of our games of your choosing for free and a chance at becoming a character in a video game!

  1. Use code TEACH2017 at our game store.
  2. Fill out this form and we will randomly pick 3 entries to have our amazing art team draw you (or a friend) as a video game character that you can use to put on social media, letterhead, posters around your room, you name it!
  3. Don’t forget about our free materials on TeachersPayTeachers!
  4. Reach out to us on Twitter @dig-itgames!

Take a moment now to fill out an entry form today!  If you are chosen to become a video game character we will contact you for a personal photo for reference.  Good Luck!


Project-Based Learning Meets Video Game Design

By Chris Magnuson

On Monday, April 24, Dig-It! Games launched the 5th Grade Challenge App to commemorate the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Educational Foundation’s 5th annual production of an innovative fundraiser. But more importantly, we were joined in the lobby of the AFI Silver Theater by a host of 8th graders who were showcasing their versions of the app and websites.

“Are You Up to the 5th Grade Challenge?” is an engaging game show that welcomes community leaders to test their wits against the challenging 5th grade curriculum of MCPS in order to raise money for programing in the district’s elementary schools.  The unique spin of this format is that there are about twenty 5th graders representing a number of MCPS elementary schools on stage to help steer the contestant to the right answer. Yolanda Pruitt, Executive Director of the MCPSEF, wanted to commemorate the 5th year of this unique event and she had a vision for students and families to take this game-show home via a mobile app.

Pruitt secured the funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute but her next step was to find a local game developer to make it happen.  That is where Dig-It! Games came in!  But she had one additional request and which was to include students in the building of the game.  We were up to the challenge!

Dig-It! Games teamed up with Argyle Middle School for Digital Design and Development to engage 8th graders in this project.  We have always interfaced with students through studio visits, playtesting and career day conversations but this was the first opportunity our studio has had in making a game with students! Argyle is a unique magnet program that was the perfect fit.  Eighth graders study Game Design, Web Design, Digital Coding, Digital Art and Video Production and we have managed to incorporate each class in the creation of this project!

Our education team took the lead in coordinating the project but everyone in the studio has been involved.   Our developers visited with Game Design classes to engage students with the design specifications and run through a paper prototypes.  Our artists visited Digital Art classes to coach students through the design and production of art for the many of the questions in the app.  Video Production students filmed every time Dig-It! visited classes and they are producing a recap video of the whole project.  Finally, Web Design students made websites to host the app and tell the story of how the app was made.  We have engaged students in all aspects of the mobile game’s development but the most fun has been sitting down with students to actually play the game and see their eyes light up when they see their own artwork and ideas present in the game-play!

Building this mobile game was a challenge but with some help of innovative 8th graders at Argyle we were up to it!

Download the app today! http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/argylems/5thGradeChallenge/

 


Math Awareness Month

Remember Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? How about Who Wants to be a Mathematician? The competition, in which students compete for scholarship money, is just one of the events kicking off this April for Mathematics Awareness Month.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan inaugurated Mathematics Awareness Week to encourage a greater appreciation and understanding of math. “It is appropriate,” he stated in his opening declaration, “that all Americans be reminded of the importance of this basic branch of science to our daily lives.” 

Math-Signs

Over time, the tribute  shifted from centralized national events to local, state, and regional activities. In 1999, the week-long event became Mathematics Awareness Month. The number and quality of events grow by the year, and with the increased focus on STEM education, Math Awareness Month is more significant than ever.

At Dig-It, we enthusiastically support Mathematics Awareness Month’s goal to grow an appreciation of math as a field of study, and to promote math as intriguing, exciting, and fun. If you think math is boring, baffling, or intimidating, you are exactly the kind of person Mathematics Awareness Month wants to reach. Instead of something daunting, we want math to be seen as something accessible—an irreplaceable part of people’s everyday lives and careers.

This year’s theme is “The Future of Prediction,” exploring how data and statistics help with everyday complex systems like the Internet and power grids and how data can drive innovation and insight into the future.

Mathematics Awareness Month is celebrated all over the country, but here are some events local to Dig-It’s studio for you to explore.

You can keep up with what’s happening on the Mathematics Awareness Month Facebook page, follow along on Twitter, and check with local school systems and universities to celebrate math close to home.  We will be featuring our math games from game developers throughout the month.  

Happy math month!

 


Archaeology Awareness Month

“What did a Mayan kid my age wear every day?”

“How does math work without the number system I’m used to?”

“How different would my life have been if I was a settler in early America?”

“Wouldn’t it be cool to have a model of a real archaeological artifact?”

“Are there active archaeological dig sites in my state?”

April is the perfect time to ask all of these questions—and get answers! It’s Archaeology Month in Dig-It’s home state of Maryland, and we’re getting ready for a statewide celebration of our rich archeological heritage. There are plenty of opportunities for the public to take part in hands-on, educational, and—most importantly—fun events to learn more about archaeology as a whole, and what it means to our state.

From the first settlement in Maryland at St. Mary’s City to Civil War sites like Lafayette Square in Baltimore City, to the Chesapeake Bay region’s earliest Native American human settlements, our state has a rich tradition of history to celebrate.

Flint Arrowheads

Flint Arrowheads

 

So why is archeology so appealing? And what makes it such a powerful teaching tool? The Society for American Archeology (SAA) says on their website that “it captures our imagination, encourages our curiosity, and stimulates our sense of wonder. It is a great teaching tool that excites and motivates students, and it’s fun!” It’s tempting to think archeology belongs only in history class, but in reality it enriches all areas of study—language arts, social studies, science, even math! And it’s rewarding to more than just students. Maryland’s archaeology month has something for all ages, from academic lectures to family fun days.

Here are a few ideas for how to celebrate Archaeology Month in Maryland.

Discovering Archaeology Day at the Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum invites families to spend the day on April 16 exploring on-site exhibits, learning from experts, and identify personal artifacts.
• Historic St. Mary’s City hosts a Maryland Archaeology Month Lecture, “A Brief History of Historical Archaeology in Maryland’s First Capital,” on April 21.
• Create your own event! Find and visit archaeological sites and programs all over the state through resources like The Council for Maryland Archeology and The Archaeological Society of Maryland.
• Visit Josiah Henson Park in Bethesda, Maryland featured by our friends at Archaeology in the Community and learn more about their local efforts.
• Venture out of Maryland and into the ancient world of the Romans and the Mayans with Dig-It’s archaeology games.
• Not from Maryland? Visit the Society for American Archaeology to find out when archaeology month happens in your state.

Dig-It is celebrating by traveling to this year’s annual SAA conference in Orlando, where we will be unveiling a new early-American archeology game. We can’t wait to spend time with the archeology community, advancing our knowledge and sharing our work. Until then, you can get a sneak peak in our video trailer below.

Happy Archaeology Month!