Regular readers will know we frequently utilize games and game-based learning to create unique and memorable learning experiences for our students. Last year, our fourth cohort of the Karabots Junior Fellows Program playtested The Pox Hunter, a game about convincing Philadelphians in the early 18th century the importance of vaccines. They also designed their own forensic science themed board and card games, learned about the spread of disease by playing Pandemic 2, honed their powers of observation by taking part in a room escape, and tested their mental might with a series of thematic review games. Our fifth and most recent cohort has continued the legacy set forth by their predecessors, recently assisting Drexel University researchers playtest a game about how HIV infects health cells.
CD4 Hunter is a microbiology-themed mobile game currently under development by the Center for Business and Program Development of Drexel University’s Institute for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. It cast the player in the role of an HIV virus. The player’s goal is to infect healthy cells in order to spread create more virus cells while resisting antibiotics. IMMID developed the game to instruct the public by means of game-based learning on how HIV spreads in the body.
Under the guidance of Mary Ann Comunale, EDD, MS, who helps oversee the project, students started with a brief questionnaire to gauge their knowledge of HIV transmission and serve as a means of measuring what they learned by playing the game. Then they paired up with iPads or on their phones and played CD4 Hunter. As they played, they wrote down their thoughts on every aspect of the game, including visuals, sound, controls, how effected it conveyed its message, and (of course) fun. Students competed for high scores, with the top scorers earning a Dunkin Donuts gift card for their efforts. Dr. Comunale followed their play session with another questionnaire to gauge how much they learned about the subject while playing the game. Everyone gave useful feedback and many of them downloaded the game on their phones to play later. Afterwards, the Fellows met with a panel of three graduate students specializing in epidemiology, virology, and vaccines, who shared insights into their research and life in graduate school.
If you’d like to try CD4 Hunter for yourself, it is currently available for free on Apple iTunes and Google Play.
Throughout the school year, the Karabots Junior Fellows have learned about the basic principles of game design. They have met with game developers, used games to learn about STEM concepts, playtested medically-themed games in class, and done some game development work of their own. All the while, they have learned about a variety of fields related to forensic science.
Beginning in January, instructor Kevin Impellizeri broke them into five teams and issued a challenge: work together to develop a prototype for a game themed around forensic science. It could be any aspect of the field and they could develop a game in any style they wished (such as roleplaying-based, board-based, or card-based). Throughout the semester, they devoted periods in class to work out a concept, develop a prototype and put it to the test, making alterations as they saw fit. This past Saturday they finally unveiled their finished products.
The best test of a game’s success is seeing how it plays; therefore, we opened the Koop classroom and let visitors to the Mütter Museum come in and try them out. Visitors met with each team of Fellows, who explained the rules and helped them play through their games. Several of the Fellows even created and carried signs in the Museum lobby to entice visitors to play their games!
Much of the curriculum of the current cohort of the Karabots Junior Fellows Program has revolved around games, from using games to teach our fellows about STEM concepts such as the spread of disease, crime scene investigation, and the Scientific Method to our Fellows designing their own forensic science-themed games. Recently, our Fellows got the chance to flex their game development muscles by acting as play testers for a computer game about vaccines.
The Fellows met with John Theibault who is part of a development team designing a game centered around public health and vaccination. The Pox Hunter puts players in the role of a physician in early 1800s Philadelphia whose goal is to convince people in the city to receive smallpox vaccinations in order to curtail a potentially deadly outbreak. The player pleads their case using different conversation tactics, such as empathy, reason, and intimidation, to convince a variety of characters representing different racial and socioeconomic groups throughout the city. Working individually or in pairs, the Fellows played through the game and offered their feedback. Drawing upon their experience developing and playtesting their own game prototypes, the Fellows shared what they felt were the game’s strengths and weaknesses and offered recommendations for what they would like to see in the final completed version.
While The Pox Hunter is still in development, if you are interested in using games to learn more about vaccines, feel free to check out Illsville: Fight the Disease, an interactive activity that explores the evolution of vaccination developed by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
The current cohort of the Karabots Junior Fellows Program has had a great deal of exposure to both forensic science and the use of games in the classroom. Their exploits throughout the year have involved studying diverse fields of forensics, including forensic anthropology, document analysis, and even lie detection. They have used games to learn about the Scientific Method, crime scene investigation, and the basic principles of computer coding. As part of their year-long project, it is their goal to bring the worlds of gaming and forensics together by designing their own forensic science-themed tabletop games.
Over the last few months, they have been responsible for breaking into teams (called Houses) to plan and design their own games. They have been given complete creative freedom to shape their games however they like, with each House deciding the theme, tone, mechanics, rules, and objectives. Their only restriction placed on them is that the game must involve some aspect of forensic science.
Recently, the Fellows took a big step in bringing their visions to life. In a recent session, Mr. Kevin issued a major challenge to the Houses with a significant amount of House Points on the line (each semester, the House with the most points earns a prize). The challenge: complete and play test their first prototype, and share their games with other Houses. Each House assembled, and set to work.
The Houses worked feverishly to complete all the challenges in the allotted time. In the end, all but one successfully completed their prototype and put them to the test. Along the way, they learned to channel their creativity, to work under deadlines, how to manage successes (and failures) and, most important, how to work together. We look forward to sharing their completed products in the near future!
Over the past few months CEPI has sought to integrate game-based learning into the curriculum for our youth programs. Recently, the Karabots Junior Fellows learned about how games are being used to train the forensic investigators of tomorrow.
The students met with Allen Burgess, DBA, who served as a consultant and technical manager for Virtual Forensics Lab. Developed by IDeS (now a part of Boston College’s Center for Teaching Excellence) for use in forensic science courses at Boston College, Virtual Forensics Lab takes students through virtual adaptations of real-life crime scenes. Students explore the crime scene, gather evidence, and attempt to draw conclusions based on their observations. Dr. Burgess walked through one of the crime scene scenarios with the Karabots Fellows, encouraging them to put their powers of observation and deduction to the test.