Games that (Really) Educate
It’s been widely reported that games can help improve certain skills, perhaps even make you smarter. Even something so non-educational looking as those infamous Angry Birds crashing about will make you think about structure, physics and finite variable resources; like how many “bombers” do I have left and where should I try and place them!!!?
But there are another level of games,that are actually real-life competitions that leverage game-play, and they are truly educational. We’ve come a very long way since Oregon Trail was considered the epitome of gaming education and an important shift in how the games are structured has taken place.
Today’s effective educational games are competitions, that require collaboration, specialized learned skills and dedication. Since the TopCoder Methodology is based on these same principles, our involvement in a U.S. Student zero-gravity robotics competition is a natural fit for our culture. But we are certainly not the only ones supporting games that really educate.
“I’m Trying to Transform Education”
This year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship, a world-wide science and robotics competition, received a major celebrity boost by will.i.am, front-man for The Black Eyed Peas and a literal army of his peers. These high profile celebrities, such as Justin Timberlake and Jack Black, are speaking out to support STEM Education which focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering & Math. The celebrity backed initiative dubbed i.am FIRST – Science is Rock and Roll aired on ABC, Sunday Aug. 14th. Below is a segment from the broadcast that is worth your time. An especially powerful part of the video is hearing the mentor of Team 1717, aka the Penguineers, talk about how project-based education is transformational.
SPHERES – Zero-Gravity Robotics Competition
TopCoder is a proud partner and the chosen platform that will be running the 2011 ZERO Robotics Student Competition. We encourage you to read about the upcoming fall competition in this recent White House blog post, and if you happen to be a teacher, U.S. Student or want to mentor a team, please note that this is an absolutely free program and one we believe will be a tremendous experience for all involved. The deadline to sign up a team is September 5th, 2011.
Andrew Abbott, a TopCoder Platform Manager, was at MIT recently to witness the finals of the ZERO Robotics Summer Challenge for Middle-School students. Five teams, the finalists, competed against one another and their programs were run live aboard the International Space Station. Here’s some of the notes on the game-play he sent back to our team.
“The game’s objectives were to perform formation flight maneuvers for space mining operations. Throughout the game, important resources such as fuel, and charges that power the tools collected are quite finite making the students in-game decisions as to how to approach the specific challenge a core focus of the game-play.”
Andrew added, “The students reaction is pretty fantastic… a hush of awe quickly spread through the room as they pulled out the first sphere. They announced the first two teams and these kids are more excited than if they were seeing Santa!”
The Common Thread in Games that Really Educate
In both the FIRST and SPHERES robotic challenges a few commonalities exist that are worth noting.
- The students are drawn to and embrace competition
- Project-Based education is hands-on and highly specific
- Mentors play a very key role in the learning process
- Collaboration is not only encouraged, it is imperative for success
What’s your opinion of this method of education? Drop a comment or continue the dialogue socially on Twitter.
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Image Credit: aol-soft.com
Video Credit: youtube.com/rmhsrobotics