Articles Tagged with: STEM

Educational Escape Rooms: Benefits, Examples, & More!

What is an Escape Room?

It’s pretty likely that you’ve at least heard of escape rooms. Companies that run escape room puzzles have begun to crop up everywhere across the country. Nowadays, nearly 2,000 escape rooms exist, compared to twenty-two at the end of 2014, according to Room Escape Artist. Generally, these puzzles limit themselves within physical spaces where players must work together to escape from the locked enclosure. Players find pieces, move contraptions, solve riddles and more to make it out.

However, all the fancy mechanisms simply make up the aesthetic flair. Actually, creating an escape room or escape room-style puzzle is easy. All you need is something to unlock and some puzzles that players must solve that will help them unlock that something. While it may not end up as fancy, anyone can make an escape room around any topic. Including teachers! And including you!

Educational Escape Room Benefits

educational escape rooms are great in classrooms

Escape rooms teach valuable life skills that are highly applicable to education. A student needs to practice teamwork, time management, problem solving, focus under pressure, and respect. Escape rooms encourage all these valuable traits. Additionally, the puzzles that make up an escape room can be created around a theme which correlates to the class it’s presented in.

Of course, the implementation itself proves challenging sometimes as teachers must grapple with standards, classroom size, and class period length. Yet, there are a number of ways to combat this through using boxes instead of the room itself or using pre-made escape rooms from educational escape room companies.

“The concept of meaningful gamification is not to provide external rewards, but rather to help participants find a deeper connection to the underlying topic,” writes Scott Nicholson, a professor of game design and development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. Escape rooms provide motivation and give students a reason to try and understand and connect with the material.

Find Resources for Your Classroom

For making your own escape room, try out this advice from Classcraft. It has tips about how to use the physical space, how to make puzzles, how to order puzzles and more. Some subjects are harder to design than others since math has a lot of opportunities for puzzles and social studies less. However, it is possible to design for any subject.

Many companies also offer pre-made escape rooms that can be easily implemented into classrooms. Breakout EDU (which we talked about on a blog post before) is a great resource for finding games that can be brought to any subject, complete with provided locks and boxes for students to work with. The Escape Classroom is another option (they also have a mystery-style workshop!) and Lock Paper Scissors has simpler printable guides to use for easier set-up.

Educational Games Are Great Too!

Escape the room or catch a thief

Our educational games were designed with C3 standards in mind for math, social studies, and STEM classes. While not as physical as escape rooms, bringing game-based learning in to the classroom is also a great way to give students motivation and engage them with learning. Our upcoming game Roman Town 2 casts the player as Team Q. They collect clues and solve puzzles to track down a thief rather than escape. However, the concept of solving problems remains the same!

If you’d rather get something for yourself, make sure to keep an eye on Roterra, our upcoming map-traversal puzzle game. Roterra will challenge your own mind and keep your brain working. Follow along with its development by signing up to be a beta tester on the game by going to the game page.

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Women’s History Month: Female Space Pioneers

Female Space Astronauts, Cosmonauts, and Mathematicians

As we continue through Women’s History Month, we take a look back at some female space pioneers. The women served in all kinds of roles from helping build rockets to riding in them. No matter their position, all the women featured here cemented their position in space history through their many accomplishments.

Katherine Johnson and the Mathematicians of NASA

At the beginning of World War II, the demand for aeronautical engineering began increasing exponentially. Langley Memorial Aeronautical Labratory began hiring women in 1935 to do number crunching. Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 book Hidden Figures told the stories of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan along with many others. Additionally,  the critically acclaimed 2017 movie based on the book focused on these “human calculators.”

The women highlighted in Hidden Figures worked for NACA (later NASA) starting in the 40s and 50s. Through their math, they worked on making the flying machines better, stronger, and faster and calculating flight trajectories for important missions, including the Apollo missions.

NASA recognized Katherine Johnson specifically in 2017 through naming the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility after her. Without the research and dedication of Johnson and her contemporaries, NASA would not be the same as it is today.

The Very First Woman in Space

The first female space explorer- first woman in spaceValentina Tereshkova orbited the Earth 48 times and became the first woman in space in June of 1963. Before being chosen as a Soviet cosmonaut, she never even flew a plane. Rather, she was a textile worker and amateur parachute jumper. The latter skill earned her the job. After eighteen months of grueling training, she became the only woman out of five to be selected.

Beyond just being the first woman in space, she remains the only woman to ever fly a solo mission. Since her mission, Museum exhibits, stage plays, and documentaries celebrated her space legacy . Additionally, she carried the Olympic torch for part of its journey in both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Sally Ride: Female Physicist and American Astronaut

The first American woman to go to space and the youngest astronaut everSally Ride blasted down barriers as she blasted into space in 1983 as the first American female astronaut to actually enter the final frontier. She served as a mission specialist on the STS-7 space shuttle mission. As a mission specialist on that flight, Ride worked a robotic arm to help release satellites into space.

After her time as an active astronaut, Ride continued to work in the STEM field, particularly in encouraging STEM education. She wrote books about space exploration and co-founded Sally Ride Science in 2001. Her work with the organization aimed to support students into careers within STEM, particularly girls and minorities. Through teacher training, books, festivals, classroom activities and more, she sought to transform the idea of what a successful scientist could look like. Even after her death in 2013, her legacy continues.

The Women of ExoTrex 2

ExoTrex2 stem game character concept of female space operativeWhen looking to engage students in STEM learning and space exploration, look no further than ExoTrex 2, a game that will test their physics, chemistry and critical thinking abilitities. Exotrex 2 is a beautifully rendered, STEM focused game that will challenge and engage your 8th – 10th grade science students.

The player partners with the AI Fiona and supervisor Dr. Estelle Burke, a female space pioneer herself, to find a new home for humanity. To complete this mission, students start by balancing speed, thrust, and acceleration while navigating gravitational fields to successfully land rovers on their chosen planet or moon. Also, they remotely navigate their rovers to collect ground and atmospheric samples and later analyze them for their chemical compositions.  Finally, Students will learn about the planetary characteristics of each destination and take observational notes in order to report their findings back to Dr. Burke. 

Help get your students passionate about space with these profiles of female space history-makers and by going hands-on with ExoTrex!

Get into Space with ExoTrex 2
Buy The Game
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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!


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/

 


Explore ExoPlanets With Dr. Oluseyi

Dr. Hakeem talks to students at Roosevelt High School“If you can see it, you can believe you can do it, then you will do it.” This was just one of the many pieces of advice from Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi to students at Roosevelt High School (part of DCPS) in Washington, D.C.. Many of the students had played our game, Exotrex, in class and were excited to find out that Dr. Hakeem is the voice of Dr. Burke from our game! Many of the DC Public Schools (DCPS) do a great job of promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers and Roosevelt HS is no different. We were so thrilled that both Dr. Hakeem and our DIG-IT! Games senior artist, Mikel Wellington, were able to speak to these eager students as part of Black History Month.

Dr. Hakeem talks to students at Roosevelt High School


Dr. Hakeem’s resume is long and impressive. He holds a Master’s Degree and PHD in Physics from Stanford. He is an astrophysicist, cosmologist, inventor, educator, actor, and humanitarian. Currently he hosts
Outrageous Acts of Science on the Science Channel and is an Space Science Education Manager for NASA. By his list of accomplishments, it may seem that he has little in common with students from an urban school district, but nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Planetary Science Can Change Your Life


During two assemblies in the high school’s auditorium, Dr. Hakeem spoke about his tough upbringing moving around a lot with his single mother. He spoke to the DCPS students about dropping out of college because math was too hard and he didn’t think he could do it. When he finally decided to go back, he worked through every single calculus problem in the textbook to learn it. He emphasized setting goals and being persistent even thought other people may not believe in you. He discussed the stigmas involved in race and physical appearance and urged the students to look past what is expected of them to what they are truly passionate about. 

WormHoles, Time Travel, and Black Holes Can Lead to Career Goals

The teachers then chose a few students to have lunch with Dr. Hakeem and Mikel. One student walked in with a list of questions for the astrophysicist that included discussing wormholes, time travel, and black holes all of which Dr. Hakeem responded to enthusiastically. It was very inspiring to watch the students interact personally with both Dr. Hakeem and Mikel.

This is what Mikel had to say about the experience:

“What an experience to see the future of your craft reflected at you. That was the immediate personal reaction that I had attending Roosevelt HS this past Friday to speak to many of the young scholars there. One of the key aspects that we tried to focus on was the importance of setting goals and the follow through no matter what their passions are. It’s not only important to have a dream and to believe that it is obtainable with undeniable sincerity and drive, but to also move in that direction with the mentality that failure is impossible. One of the most important aspects of any type of artistic production is not just theory, but the actual act of doing that task. I spoke with a young man who had a passion for movies and wanted to get into film. The level of excitement that he had in his eyes and how he spoke to the things he wanted seemed to unlock with encouragement. For that young film maker, encouraging him to make films now with his camera on his phone, and free editing software in his free time was an avenue I don’t believe he had yet considered. This was enough to spark a level of focus and purpose that he hadn’t yet unlocked, and to me that was everything.

One of the things I realized when speaking to this wonderful group of kids was that they weren’t aware that even at this stage in their lives, they have the power to create right now. I’m very thankful for my time there and having the opportunity to share my life experiences with these young scholars. I can’t wait to see what they contribute to the world not only in our future tomorrow, but also today.”

Students at Roosevelt after hearing from Dr. Hakeem

Related Reading


Memorize the Solar System!

What is the best way to teach students about the solar system? As an instructor, what instructional methods might you choose to present the content? The traditional method chosen is to have students read about the solar system from their science textbook or do you choose to utilize Game-Based Learning? The first method can be dry, impersonal, and depending on the year it was published, inaccurate. Some instructors will infuse text readings with primary sources, such as articles, videos, and photos from or about space to help students visualize and understand the content better. These additions will supplement and heighten instruction to encompass visual, spatial, linguistic and auditory modes of learning.

After teaching about the solar system, many students are required to show proficiency on an assessment or project. To prepare for this, one method chosen by students is to make flashcards. This form of learning or memorization only works for some students; one such proficient example of this form of learning is the brilliant four-year-old Brielle. Watch her here on the Ellen Show!

But as all seasoned teachers know, flashcards are not a tool that works for all students. What all students need are hands-on experiences that allow students to explore and apply the new information found in their schema. Now, this can be hard to do while learning about the solar system, being that the closest planet, Venus, can vary from 38 million to 261 million kilometers away. This presents a problem if we want students to apply new understanding of concepts learned to real life examples.

One solution is virtual reality. Pairing traditional methods of instruction with game-based learning can lead to amazing results. Games are digital learning tools that allow a student to apply their knowledge while playing and analyze the outcomes to determine if concepts need to be revisited and reviewed in a non-threatening environment. Losing a game does not hold the same negative stigma that a bad grade on an exam holds. A student can play and replay a game until mastery of the concept or level is achieved!

Within this format, a teacher will be able to gather and determine their student’s performance and therefore determine areas that need to be reviewed and which areas show mastery. This method of instruction is called Game-Based Learning and it is proving to be a great way to blend curriculum standards with interactive learning fun.

To learn more about Game-Based Learning check out the infographic below from www.online-education-degrees.net.

To explore the solar system, check out our new educational digital game; ExoTrex Episode 1 and begin the journey incorporating Game-Based Learning into your classroom!


STEM & CES 2017

The extremely popular Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up earlier this month in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s always exciting to bring the best and the brightest in technology to one place to show off their new technology. So while it’s amazing to look at the self-driving cars and the super-thin TVs, here in the studio we love looking at learning gadgets. 

 

One of the biggest goals in any educational setting today is including more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) courses. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) say employment in occupations related to STEM is projected to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022. As we know at Dig-It! Games, one of the best ways to engage students in learning is with games.

 

The biggest hits at CES this year seemed to revolve around robots and programming. Lego came out with Boost, a more simplified version of Mindstorms, where kids as young as seven can follow the kit and build robots or castles and then make them move. Another company, Circuit Cubes, actually works with certain lego kits and challenge kids to learn about engineering electronics. Players learn about magnets, batteries, and currents while creatively playing.  

 

 Another one of the hottest toys for the last few years has been drones. The company RoboLink came up with CoDrone where kids can program their drone to do amazing things. According to their website, kids can program the drone to follow them, engage in laser fights, go through a maze, and more.

 

These toys go right along with Dig-It!’s idea that learning and fun go hand in hand. Kids can build, be creative, have fun and learn all at the same time. Another important aspect that I think we will see in the future is that kids who learn these skills from one toy will realize how easy it is to transfer to another toy. They are flexible with their skills and able to adapt to different toys which will be extremely helpful as they get older.

 

Dig-It! Games believes in the power of STEM and the importance of introducing students to these fields through engaging games.  We have recently released Exotrex which is a science adventure game for middle school students that reinforces chemistry and planetary science as students aim to save humanity.  Sound like a tall order?  The game itself is fun, but preparing the next generation to meet our nation’s need to for STEM-based workers is the real challenge!  Check out Exotrex today and join our efforts to prepare students for the future, one game at a time.

 

 

Comment below and let us know what your favorites were from CES.