Harnessing the popularity of online virtual worlds such as Second Life, IBM has created its own world of a planet approaching ecological disaster, which aims to promote engineering amongst school children as a career choice by engaging them in real-life engineering problems in a virtual environment.
This virtual world is called PowerUp and is available at www.powerupthegame.org
for download free of charge. IBM encourages parents and teachers to get involved and use it as an educational tool.
The ecological state of the planet is at critical mass and players, either together or alone, must complete tasks which use engineering skills such as repairing wind turbines or building solar towers.
“Learning through games and simulation is the way to engage tech-savvy students today,” said Michael Mino, director at the Centre for 21st-Century Skills in the US.
“If we have any hope of saving the ‘real world from real problems’ we must embrace teaching students through computer games and virtual simulations.”
PowerUp also has in-world guides who serve as role models and offer guidance and advice to children who are interested in a career in engineering.
IBM will also be providing lesson plans for use by teachers, along with an interactive module that can introduce children to 3D technology and the skills involved in building a virtual world like PowerUp.
Unlike Second Life, PowerUp monitors interactive between children by only allowing them to communicate with each other in-world using pre-approved phrases and sentences.
While the game, which is part of IBM’s TryScience initiative, will be officially launched at Engineer’s Week 2008 tomorrow in the US, it is available for download worldwide.
By Marie Boran