NIU students help develop Xbox game to teach secondary school teens about subatomic world

The Digital Convergence Lab and a team of NIU students, faculty and staff are preparing to unveil their newly developed video game, Picodroid.

The game, developed for NIU STEM Outreach, was designed to teach basic concepts in chemistry and physics to middle and high school students.

Full Body Physics: Learning Physics Using Kinect Technology

A by-invitation-only demonstration will be held today on campus.

The game features hands-free Xbox Kinect technology. Game players use their bodies rather than a game controller to navigate through a world filled with subatomic particles, which they then use to build elements.

The Full Body Physics game project was developed by the Digital Convergence Lab and an interdisciplinary, experiential-learning team of students, faculty, staff, game-development experts, and subject matter experts including NIU’s STEM Outreach coordinator, Pati Sievert.

The Division of Outreach, Engagement, and Information Technologies supported this project as part of their initiatives to increase student achievement in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The American Physical Society provided additional support through a grant that encourages new physics outreach programs.

Visitors at STEMfest 2011 lined up to try Picodroid.
Visitors at STEMfest 2011 lined up to try Picodroid.

NIU students from physics, art, instructional technology and computer science worked together to design and develop the game concepts, story and interface.

STEM Outreach plans to publish Picodroid and corresponding lesson plans and make them available free of charge to educators. Play only requires a Kinect camera and a Windows 7 personal computer.

Eventually, the game will be made available online as well.

As part of the American Physical Society, grant, Sievert plans to conduct demonstrations of Picodroid in schools and other public places, where young people will play the game to learn principles of physics.

The Digital Convergence Lab now is preparing to start its next Xbox Kinect project, titled Literacy in Motion. It aims to teach reading skills to children.

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