Edge at TERC with MXTreality
Imagine how you learned best while in school, or how you best retain and utilize knowledge in your life today. The idea of hands on learning in education is not a new concept; yet through language, writing and drawing, we’ve made learning highly visual and auditory. These are great tools and allow for a lot of information to be passed along to large numbers of people in a short amount of time. Many aspects of these ways of teaching do not require hands on approach yet can still be effective, and certainly efficient. You might feel, however, from your own personal experience that hands on learning helps you retain many practices more effectively than sitting through a lecture. For writing and language skills, conventional approaches to teaching largely are the most pragmatic, but what about for areas like Science and Engineering?
STEM based learning; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, is measurably more effective with an applied approach. This means that when adding apples to oranges, it helps to actually use apples and oranges rather than just saying or writing numbers. The problem is, fruit rots and plastic apples and oranges take up a lot of space on a classroom shelf. And of course it is more expensive the more elaborate applied learning gets. Luckily, emerging immersive tech like Virtual and Augmented Reality can act as a bridge between traditional conventional ways of teaching and applied hands on learning which is a tenet of STEM based education.
At MXTreality we have had opportunities to create molecular sized plant cells and human hearts in AR, exploration throughout the earth and beyond in VR, and many more solutions that are centered around learning through immersive tech.
TERC; a non-profit comprised of teams of math and science education and research experts dedicated to innovation and creative problem solving are at the forefront of utilizing the latest in tech to assist in educational learning. Through our shared interest in these areas, we came together with game creation team Edge at TERC to create a learning based game that educates students about space exploration, scientific concepts, and more, all related to the 6th moon of Jupiter; Europa.
Europa is a hot topic among the scientific community and the mainstream is impressively familiar with the icy world as a result. There is growing interest in the moon due to theories that Europa almost certainly contains water filled oceans beneath its icy surface and along with other factors makes it what many agree is the most likely place in the solar system other than Earth to facilitate conditions for life.
We cannot yet send students to visit Europa, yet virtually, the possibilities are endless. Edge at TERC understood this concept and decided that they wanted the ability to utilize Europa’s vast sources of curiosity. Working with them we at MXTreality created a gamified experience to bring students to Europa to explore a futuristic research facility.
The experience begins in a landing shuttle hurdling towards the Europa surface. The atmospheric entry burn that surrounds the view through the window portal of the ship gives that touch of danger to start the game out with the player really on their feet. And they are really on their feet, this is VR after all! The game continues by allowing the player to exit the lander and begin to explore the man made research facility. Throughout the exploration the player encounters puzzles that help them get to the next step. The puzzles themselves are designed with attention to the disciplines of STEM, so students playing the game will encounter challenging puzzles that will introduce them to basics of circuitry, or introduce concepts like the fibonacci spiral. The integration of these concepts into the puzzles requires thought to solve the puzzle while creating opportunity the player’s curiosity to be enlivened. MXTreality programmer Nathan Negriero was thrilled the game utilized puzzles, describing his experience working on the project by saying "I am glad that students will be able to learn from in game puzzles we developed in conjuction with TERC."
TERC and MXTreality agree that hands on learning is key in cultivating a strong learning process and maintaining knowledge and capacity. Virtual Reality is the emerging way for students to learn hands on and we are thrilled to have created a contribution to the education of the Scientists, Technologists, Engineers and Mathematicians of tomorrow. We can’t wait to see how the reactions of the expanse of students that will get to play Mission to Europa. MXTreality Lead Technical Environmental Artist Nelson Reid expressed the feeling of excitement throughout our team; "We're happy to be play a role in the efforts of exploration toward more engaging STEM learning in educational environments."
One thing is for sure; when it comes to this type of learning based, fully immersive game that brings students to worlds only yet imagined, this is just the beginning.