Given the large matrix of creative and teaching possibilities that they identified, they developed a subset of prototypes to implement as proofs-of-concept, including games to support teaching in physics and environmental engineering. They have been working with teachers and students at MIT and high schools in the Boston area to assess the use of their early work in the classroom and how students' understanding of learning points is affected.
To broaden and sustain this work and to leverage emerging efforts at other universities and in industry, they have launched a new research initiative named The Education Arcade. This consortium:
Expands development work for and assessment studies of games in education;
Encourages broader investigations into the use of games in education with both industrial and university partners; and
Brings together a community of professionals and advocates interested in the future of videogames in education.
Monument on 3d Virtual Reality Screen
Students and visitors play the role of environmental engineers who are presented with the following scenario at the beginning of the simulation:
During the construction of the underground garage of a monument significant amounts of water are pumped up from the ground in order to lower the groundwater table so that the garage can be constructed in a dry environment. As a matter of regulation the water is tested for the 25 most commonly found chemicals in groundwater at hazardous waste sites. As a result of the testing it is discovered that a toxin is present in the extracted water. You call the President to report and he asks, "How dangerous is this toxin? Where did the contamination come from and how widespread is it? Do we need to take some action (and what action might this be)? What do you advise?" You promise to call him back within three hours with your advice on the problem.
Students watch a 60 second digital video-briefing from the president where they are enlisted to investigate the spill of the toxin, a carcinogenic degreasing agent which is commonly found in machine shops, cafeterias, and hospitals. The goal of the game is to locate the source of the spill, identify the responsible party, design a remediation plan, and brief the president on any health and legal risks so that he will be prepared for a meeting with the EPA – all within a specified time period. At the end of the game, students make a five minute presentation to their peers outlining their theory behind the spill.
The spread of the toxin is simulated on a location-aware Pocket PC, which functions as a tool which students can use to investigate the toxic spill. Each Pocket PC is equipped with a GPS device, which allows players to sample chemical concentrations in the groundwater depending on their location. Players are given three reusable drilling apparatuses which they can use to drill for water samples. After drilling for a sample, players must wait three minutes for the sample to return, meaning that students can only take three samples at a time, and are forced to develop sampling strategies in order to optimize the amount of ground that they can cover in limited time. Because the GPS data is only accurate within 10 meters, there is some built-in error to the collected readings as well.
Environmental Detectives contains a multimedia database of resources which students can use to learn more about the chemical, where it is found, the health risks associated with exposure to the toxin, how it flows through ground water, relevant EPA regulations, remediation strategies for cleaning up the toxin, and the political and economic consequences of EPA. Students access these resources by obtaining interviews from a virtual university faculty and staff who are on video screens at locations roughly corresponding with actual operations. Because time is limited and there is not enough time to interview everyone or to drill more than a handful of wells, students must make choices between collecting interviews, gathering background information, and drilling wells, adjusting and reprioritizing goals as new information becomes available.
Educational & Non-Violent Standard Amusement Arcade Integration
The above example demonstrates the use of environmental education when virtual reality is integrated. The arcade of the complex will also house standard amusement arcade games, rides, prizes, and other virtual reality units. Some of these virtual reality units will allow the user to step into a virtual world where they will be able to interact with the virtual experience, actually feel the wind, smell the virtual environment and feel the effects of their interaction.
The River Route Edu-Tainment Complex Arcade will be 5 star amusement arcade by any standard, and one that visitors will return to many times.