Articles Tagged with: STEM

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.


ExoTrex Space Adventure Game

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship ….B.E.A.K.E.R…. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Many will remember this phrase from the introductory sequence of the Star Trek series but in this case our starship is not the Enterprise, but B.E.A.K.E.R, the ship introduced in our newest space adventure STEM game, ExoTrex™. ExoTrex™ takes place in the not-so distant future, where humanity has used up all Earth’s resources and must find a new place to live. Using an innovative new fuel cell called B.E.A.K.E.R (Basic Element Analysis Kinetic Energy Reactor), players must use their chemistry and critical thinking skills to explore deep space and investigate exoplanets to find a new home for the human race.

For many middle and high school students, chemistry, physics and planetary science studies might seem just as challenging as the Enterprise’s mission in Star Trek, but ExoTrex™ can help. ExoTrex™ was designed for students from 8th to 10th grades and uses fun puzzles and problem solving exercises to build critical thinking skills that promote college and career readiness across STEM content areas including: science, math, and science literacy. In an effort to reach underserved students, DIG-IT! Games® ensured the ExoTrex™ narrative and characters would also appeal to minority students who are severely underrepresented in STEM education and careers.

In the newly released Episode 1 of ExoTrex™, players prove their readiness for the mission by completing a series of training exercises that test their chemistry understanding, knowledge of space history and critical thinking skills. Players who make it through this rigorous mission training will take the B.E.A.K.E.R. ship on a variety of exploratory missions in space in future episodes.

 

Students who play ExoTrex™ will meet Dr. Gerald Burke, an African American character who is based on the grandfather of DIG-IT! Games Artist Mikel Wellington. As DIG-IT! Games’ CEO says, “Dr. Burke’s presence in the game elevates the product from a game about science to a game about successfully overcoming barriers and challenges. His story is inspirational and it’s our hope that including him in this game will serve to motivate students of color to enter STEM fields.”

To increase the reach and impact of ExoTrex™, DIG-IT! Games partnered with renowned Astrophysicist, Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi who, in addition to being a star on the popular TV show, Outrageous Acts of Science, is also the Chief Science Officer for both Discovery Communications and the Science Channel.

“The decision to partner with DIG-IT! Games was easy because we are both on a mission to use innovative ways to teach and to reach underserved kids.” Says Dr. Oluseyi, “The diversity in ExoTrex™ is especially important because it’s empowering to students to see and hear someone who looks like them and sounds like them doing science. Today you have to capture kids’ attention in seconds. The visuals in ExoTrex™ do that.”

 

The game’s three episodes will challenge students to not only learn to power the ion propulsion ship, but also to sample the planetary characteristics of known and unknown planets as they analyze, evaluate and make recommendations for an alternative to Earth. Students will love this immersive STEM experience while they have a hand in helping humanity in the not-too-distant future!

Learn more about the game and how to purchase it here. This game is part of our “Get One, Give One” campaign (#GOGOLEARN) where we give away one game for each game purchased. Learn more about our GoGoLearn campaign and our partnership with NSLA to fight summer learning loss through gaming here.

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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!

 


3 Cheers for STEM Night!

You’ve probably heard the acronym STEM used more and more lately in relation to education. You probably also know that it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. But what do those subject areas really mean for education? Why are they important? How do they help kids learn and grow, in and out of the classroom?

 

A few years ago, Education Week published an article online stating that “STEM is more than just a grouping of subject areas. It is a movement to develop the deep mathematical and scientific underpinnings students need to be competitive in the 21st-century workforce.” That’s also what President Obama said in 2010 when he set a clear goal for STEM education: motivate and inspire American students to excel in STEM subjects so that within the next decade, they will no longer be in the middle of the pack for STEM achievement but leaders of a competitive global community.

 

“This movement goes far beyond preparing students for specific jobs,” the Education Week article goes on to say. “STEM develops a set of thinking, reasoning, teamwork, investigative, and creative skills that students can use in all areas of their lives.”

 

A school STEM Night is a great way to include families, educators, and the community in supporting students’ ability to do just that. On Tuesday, March 22nd, Bethesda Elementary students in grades K-5 get a chance to display their STEM projects at the annual STEM Night celebration. With the help of teachers and parents, students chose topics they were interested in learning more about. They applied the scientific method to a hands-on investigation that produced results. They worked individually and in teams to build creative displays that will communicate their discoveries to the STEM night audience.

 

STEM education is close to our hearts at Dig-It Games. We’re a company that uses technology to produce video games that teach and support these vital subjects. We are deeply invested in the national dialog on STEM, and we believe in the power of game-based learning to promote STEM education in schools and new and fun ways.

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We loved being a part of Bethesda Elementary’s STEM night last year. Dig-It staff members Dayle and Steve ran our exhibit table as well as checking out and admiring students’ STEM-related projects and getting a chance to interact with parents, educators, and especially kids. Their favorite part of the night was seeing how excited students were to play, and meeting parents who were just as excited as the kids! Some kids ditched their parents for the games right away, some kids didn’t want to let go of the games, and some kids competed with their parents! In fact, there was so much interest that we ran out of devices for visitors to play on.

 

This year, we’re honored to be invited back again, along with C3 Cyber Club, KID Museum, Under the Sea‘s mobile aquarium, and Montgomery County Public Library. We’re bringing more devices and more DIG folks. We will also be exhibiting some of our unreleased titles before they are seen by the general public. Students can comment and give feedback on a game-in-progress, which is known in the industry as beta testing, an essential part of product development. This little bit of behind-the-scenes insight fits right in with the STEM movement’s goal of motivating kids to pursue intellectual curiosity, and equipping them for hands-on, innovative problem-solving.

DIG_Bethesda-Elementary_Science-Fair

“We love events like this where we interact with our end users,” says Dig-It Games president Suzi Wilczynski. “Being around students, parents, and teachers helps us to make sure that our games are meeting the needs of those whose opinions we trust and follow. It also supports our belief that game-based learning enriches education by encouraging critical thinking, independent learning, and the joy of intellectual discovery. Bethesda Elementary’s STEM Night is an event we look forward to attending.”

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“We’re thrilled that Dig-It Games has again partnered with us,” says Kenneth Tercyak, a co-organizer of the event. “Bethesda Elementary students enjoy learning about computer science and its application to game design. It’s a great way to help build their interest in STEM and STEM careers.”

 

Follow STEM Night as it happens at https://twitter.com/bethesda_es.


Three Generations–One Educational Cause

Today, we’re proud to share a contributed blog post from our friend Mike Burke. We’ve gotten to know Mike through Dig-It! Games artist, Mikel Wellington–Mike’s son. He’s been a visitor to the studio and we were glad to have him with us on our field trip the Baltimore Museum of Industry last month. Read on to find out what Mike’s been working on behind-the-scenes…

Every successful business is the end result of a visionary CEO, Chairman or General Manager who takes their concept from an idea to a reality. Suzi Wilczynski is such a visionary. The vision? Dig-It! Games. They believe in the power of games to blend fun and learning. Suzi and her team of extraordinary artists, programmers, and producers have found a way to retain the interest in learning among all students, particularly at the middle school/junior high level.

I’ve had the good fortune to meet Suzi and to visit the Dig-It! Games studio, nestled in the heart of downtown Bethesda, MD. Attending one of their staff meetings (often referred as collaborations), I quickly learned this exclusive and non-traditional exchange of ideas fosters an unrestricted flow of thoughts, and concepts, “giving [the team] the opportunity to learn without the fear of failure,” according to Dig-It! Games artist (and my son), Mikel Wellington. This is the same opportunity that Dig-It! Games provides kids, with the use of game-based learning in the classroom.

Mike Burke and Menty

Right now, Dig-It! Games is working to develop a long-term science adventure for students called BEAKER, expected to release in early 2016. The team is working with middle school teachers to build the game, which will focus on the Periodic Table and chemical reactions.

The storyline and characters are what help immerse students in any game. In Mayan Mysteries and the Loot Pursuit series, students empathize with Charlie and Fiona—quirky, similarly-aged kids like them. For a brand-new game, Dig-It! Games is creating brand-new characters.

Education has always been a part of my family’s fabric of Life. My dad, a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education and my mom, an M.A. in English. One of the main characters in BEAKER will be based on my father, Dr. Gerald Burke. Together, Mikel and I have been researching his life.

Gerald Burke

My father was born in the Ogis section of Miami, FL. During his early childhood years his family moved to Belle Glade, FL where they became migrant workers. Picking beans and cutting sugar cane in the hot South Florida sun was motivation for my father and his brother, Robert to graduate high school and college (Florida A & M University) with honors and degrees in Chemistry and Biology respectively.

After a couple of decades teaching in Palm Beach County Schools, he pursued and received a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education in 1971 from Michigan State University. He returned to Palm Beach County Schools’ Suncoast High as a classroom teacher. My father retired in 1991, having left a strong impact on the lives of his many beloved students—both inside and outside the classroom.

The character of Dr. Burke will be leading players through BEAKER from start to finish, providing helpful hints and direction within the game. I wish I could tell you more now—but stay tuned on the blog for more information behind-the-scenes as BEAKER gets closer to the finish line!

A friend of the Dig-It! Games studio, Mike Burke enjoyed a successful 30-year career in Washington radio working for United Broadcasting Co, Radio Broadcast Communications, Inc., Radio One, WHUR Howard University Radio, Metro Networks and Bonneville International/WTOP as a Traffic Anchor & Reporter. Currently, he is an on-air personality with WFLM in Florida.


Ready, Set, Pin: Dig-It! Games is Pin-teresting

It’s the end of August and we know where teachers are. They’re in the classroom, cleaning and organizing, decorating bulletin boards and planning out seating charts; they’re in professional development for the district, talking about standards and assessments and training on the newest technologies; and they’re on Pinterest, pinning ideas for units and activities, rules posters and homework sheet templates.

Pinterest Announcement

Since July, according to Buzzfeed, there have been 72 million back-to-school Pins—from lunchboxes to school supplies to homework stations to ways of fighting fatigue. This week, Dig-It! Games launched our Pinterest page with boards for:

  • Ancient Maya Culture Unit
  • Middle School Math: Common Core Activities
  • Roman History Unit
  • Back to School: Middle School Teacher Tips

Part of our mission at Dig-It! Games is to promote cultural understanding through the study of ancient cultures. Our founder and CEO, Suzi Wilczynski, is a former social studies teacher and archaeologist. We specifically develop our games to meet the needs of middle school students, and we know that middle school is a time when students are discovering who they are and determining how they fit into the world. Students are looking to know where they come from to figure out where they’re going. By studying ancient Rome or the Maya culture, students develop analysis skills to lead them to a better understanding of the world around them.

Our hope is that our Pinterest page will serve as a resource for educators to quickly find exciting activities and tips to help teachers better plan the school year and implement game-based learning in the process.

  • Our two flagship games—Mayan Mysteries and Roman Town—were the inspiration for our ancient culture Boards on Pinterest. Within those, you’ll find teacher-created resources, printables, and engaging videos. Because Roman Town is set in Pompeii, there are volcano-building exercises and diorama activities for students to get hands-on with the content.
  • With a focus on math through our Loot Pursuit series (Tulum and Pompeii) as well as 3 Digits, we wanted to introduce some fun math resources that are Common Core-aligned for middle school teachers. In our Middle School Math board, you’ll find lots of free resources from Teachers Pay Teachers that can be used as games for review or center activities.
  • We also want teachers to feel ready to get back in the classroom. Our Back-to-School Board provides tips and resources to get the year started off on the right foot, with decorating ideas and first-day games to get to know students.

As we develop and produce new games, we’ll be updating the Pinterest page to reflect related resources. Follow us on Pinterest to stay informed! (Psst—we’re looking for vocabulary Pins…)