The very idea of using video games for education might seem bizarre. Many people might consider video games, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, even harmful. But, in fact, research by a number of researchers since during the last three decades or so has shown that well-designed games can be extremely effective in helping students develop deep conceptual understanding of conceptual topics, including STEM topics such as physics and computer science. Whether these games, by themselves, can allow students to learn difficult topics in these fields or whether they should be used as a supplement to classroom instruction may be debated but what the existing research shows is that games can, indeed, be of considerable value in STEM education.

Current State of the Field

In spite of this potential, relatively few STEM games have been developed, especially at the high school and college levels. The following links provide pointers to some of the existing games and papers that discuss the potential of games for STEM education: One of the main reasons why there are not many more games on more STEM topics is related to the cost of developing video games. Commerical game companies are unlikely to put in the effort into developing such games until they are reasonably sure of the market. And that is not likely to develop until educators see the value of such games for their students. Which, in turn, will depend on the availability of such games. In order to break this cycle, a number of games have to be developed by researchers in universities, in consultation with interested educators. The current project hopes to make a contribution to this effort.

The Project

The immediate goal of the current project, which is supported in part by by a small grant from the Interdisciplinary Innovation Team Development (IITD) program at Ohio State, is to create a handful of prototype games, the planned initial games being related to quantum physics, Newtonian mechanics and a number of topics in computer science such as network security. Additional details will be available at this site as the games are developed.

The team includes Dr. Neelam Soundarajan (PI), Dr. Rajiv Ramnath (both of the CSE Dept.) and Dr. Kui Xie (of the Dept. of Educational Studies). Two undergraduate students, Aaron Post and Joshua Varghese, have been working with Neelam on the design and implementation of a game called Einstein's Quest for quantum physics dealing, specifically, with the concepts of superposition of states and collapse of a superposed state to one of those states upon observation. Another student, Amarth Chen, was actively involved in the design of the game. A (plain text) document detailing the design of the game is available here.

A (very) preliminary version of the game is available here; at least one game controller is needed to play the game. A YouTube video of the game is available here. Comments are welcome but please note again that this is a very preliminary version and very much subject to change.