Game Play Overview
Students will enter a 3-D virtual world. They will form four-person groups representing victims of an earthquake that has struck their remote region of Alaska. The quake has destroyed homes, wrecked power lines, cracked airport runways, damaged roads, and triggered landslides.
The quake area is over a hundred miles from the nearest source of building materials and supplies (the city of Fairbanks). Because roads have been so badly damaged, travel is virtually impossible until repairs can be made. It is November; it is snowing, and cold is the enemy.
Screen-Based Activity: Students will use screen-based tools to model solutions that address technological design challenges. They will click and drag design elements from an interactive library of 3-D objects to develop virtual models. On-screen, each of the earthquake victims will be represented by an animated human-like character (an avatar) that students will select and personalize (e.g., choose gender, facial and body characteristics, hairstyle, and outer clothing). Students can right-click on their avatars to ask for technical help. Each avatar will have a set of minimal core competencies in math, science, construction, GPS/map reading, and design. The avatars will “get smarter” as they acquire STEM knowledge by completing knowledge and skill builders (KSBs). They will be programmed to complain if they get very cold or if time is waning.
Follow-up Physical Modeling: After the structure has been designed and optimized on-screen, the student teams will print out drawings and use tools and materials to build a scaled or full-size physical model. In constructing the model, students will work in cooperative groups. They will document their progress and conceptual understanding in their design journals. They will consider iterative changes to the virtual design made apparent by the physical model, and will identify the relative advantages and disadvantages of computer-based and real-world modeling. They will describe how systems that are simulated virtually still need to be physically modeled, as simulations do not sufficiently capture the irregularities of a complex, real-world environment.
Design Challenge: It is 7 a.m. and the outside temperature is 25°F. At night, it will drop to 0°F. The earthquake victims must build a shelter to sustain them for three days, the time it will take for roads to be repaired, building supplies to be delivered, and power to be restored. Time is of the essence.
Specifications: For each time the shelter is constructed/modified, it must be heated to an inside temperature of 68°F by a heat source and by the body heat of the team members. It must be large enough for all to sleep side by side and sit up comfortably. Since in extreme cold weather there is a condensation problem due to the moisture in people’s breath, a venting system must provide for air exchange. The shelter must sustain a wind load of 40 miles per hour and a snow load of 20 pounds per square foot.
Constraints: The team may use only the materials found within walking distance of their camp site. These include natural materials (such as spruce trees and boughs) and perhaps items from a “supply plane” that crashed months prior on the mountain (this could be the material across the ravine). The team must build and then reinforce a shelter over a fictional 3 day period (equivalent to about fifteen 40-minute class periods) or the team risks death.