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Posted: December 8, 2009
Video game sheds light on the molecular world
(Nanowerk News) While most American students have an intuitive grasp of popular music, professional sports, and consumer electronics, they lack a basic understanding of cell biology. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) developed the video game "Immune Attack" to plunge 7th – 12th graders into the microscopic world of immune system proteins and cells.
Immune Attack is a three-dimensional video game that provides a place to gain an understanding of cellular biology and molecular science, according to an FAS expert who will be discussing the game evaluation during the 2009 ASCB Annual Meeting, taking place December 5 – 9, 2009 in San Diego, California.
The mission in Immune Attack is to save a patient suffering from a bacterial infection. In the game environment, proteins, molecules and cells behave as they do in nature, as well as the actions such as the capture of white blood cells by proteins on blood vessel walls. Melanie Ann Stegman, PhD, a program manager at FAS will discuss the results from the ongoing evaluation of Immune Attack.
Stegman will discuss her collaboration with teachers to conduct controlled evaluations. The evaluation tests students’ knowledge of biology and immunology, their comprehension of game dynamics, and their confidence in the material. For example, results find that students who play the game show significant gains in confidence with the molecular science-related material and gains in their knowledge of cell biology and molecular science.
“Our most exciting results demonstrate that Immune Attack players appear more confident in their abilities to understand a diagram about white blood cells than students who did not play Immune Attack," said Stegman.
Stegman will present her latest findings during a poster session (Program 2356, Board B733) on pre-college and college science education on Tuesday, December 8, 2009, from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm PST in Exhibit Halls D-H of the San Diego Convention Center.
“The amount of detail about proteins, chemical signals and gene regulation that these 15-year-olds were devouring was amazing. Their questions were insightful. I felt like I was having a discussion with scientist colleagues,” said Stegman.
Stegman also uses Immune Attack to inspire high school computer programming classes to create videos games.
“Basically, Immune Attack is cool. After playing the game, or even after just watching the trailer, high school programmers are extremely motivated to create video games of their own based on the premise of a cell-sized submarine called a Microbot,” said Stegman. “This motivation kept McKinley Technology High School students asking intense questions while they developed 2-dimensional Microbot games using Game Maker. The desire to create a realistic game made these kids active and engaged students of molecular biology.”
Melanie Stegman, Ph.D. is the program manager for the Immune Attack game development project at FAS. Stegman has 10 years of laboratory research experience and brings an in-depth knowledge of cell biology, protein and lipid biochemistry, and molecular interactions to the Immune Attack project.