IBM is launching a free multiplayer online game, PowerUp, challenging teenagers to help save the planet “Helios” from ecological disaster. The game, which can be played alone or together, features a planet in near ecological ruin where three exciting missions for solar, wind and water power must be solved before sandstorms, floods or SmogGobs thwart the rescue. Go to their site to watch the news release here.
As co-chair of this year’s Engineer’s Week, an annual effort to promote engineering careers to students across the world, IBM devised the 3D virtual game to engage kids and educators in engineering, energy, and diversity awareness. Online video gaming is on the rise, with kids spending greater amounts of time online in fantasy play.
PowerUp aims to use kids’ interest in fantasy virtual worlds to encourage them to learn about engineering principles by riding over rugged mountains in buggies to build solar towers or searching through grim junk yards to repair wind turbines. They will also learn about energy conservation by the choices they make in completing their missions. The game also features non-player characters that represent a diverse cross section of the population, to be role models to encourage every young person to consider a career in engineering and they act as guides for the game.
“Innovation is the key to competitiveness in today’s globally integrated economy, but just when we need it to skyrocket, interest in math and science has been declining in the United States,” said Stanley S. Litow, VP of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and President of IBM International Foundation. “American competitiveness demands more interest in math and science by students. Virtual worlds and 3D are an unexplored resource in education. We asked our best researchers to incorporate the use of this technology into traditional educational curriculum.”
U.S. jobs in science, technology, engineering and math are projected to grow 22 percent through 2014, faster than the average at 13 percent with computer specialist occupations growing 30 percent. But, U.S. grade school students continue to lag behind other developed countries in science and math.
Along with the game, there will be classroom lesson plans associated with the energy transformation topics and an interactive module where kids can learn about 3D technologies to build virtual worlds. To ensure a safe environment, “avatars” will use phrase-based chats to interact in missions.
“Learning through games and simulation is the way to engage tech-savy students today,” said Michael Mino, Director, Center for 21st Century Skills @ EDUCATION CONNECTION. “If we have any hope of saving the ‘real world from real problems,’ we must embrace teaching students through computer games and virtual simulations.”
IBM innovators applied their knowledge in 3D and virtual worlds to develop the game in about 16 months. Nearly 200 teens in the Connecticut Innovation Academy served as advisors to IBM researchers during the game development. The TryScience team from the New York Hall of Science worked with The Tech Museum in San Jose, California and the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the activities and game content.
Engineer’s Week is a coalition of corporations, professional organizations, and government partners to help create interest in the engineering profession with students. IBM is co-sponsor of Engineer’s Week running February 17-23, but events are held throughout the year.
IBM has been an active supporter of Engineer’s Week since 1990, and last year about 5,000 IBM employees volunteered their time in classrooms to speak with students and provide hands-on science experiments.