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New NASA Videogame Invites Players for Study

Dated Posted: Wed June 13 2007

Youth who play videogames have a chance to test a new game and help NASA with a research study at the same time.

The NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future at the Center for Educational Technologies® is looking for students ages 13-18 to play its new Selene videogame and be part of a NASA-funded study into what makes a good educational videogame. All the players need to do is have an adult contact the Center for Educational Technologies to begin the process of registering the players.

Selene, named after the Greek lunar goddess, helps players learn the major geologic processes scientists believe formed the modern moon. The game takes about an hour to play, but gamers can spend more time cruising through Selene's various resources about the moon. The game was released May 16 for research and for play by youth ages 13-18. In its current version Selene requires a Windows-based computer (non-Mac) running at least Internet Explorer 6, Java 1.4 and Flash 8. The Classroom of the Future™ is data-mining Selene to conduct research into the effectiveness of videogames as learning tools.

It's a great opportunity for students to learn about lunar geology while helping NASA researchers study some key videogame design principles. However, the opportunity is available only to students who have been recruited by adults.

Being a recruiter will not take a lot of time and generally will involve getting parental consent for game players, then sending the students information on accessing the game. To serve as an adult recruiter and help NASA with this important study, e-mail selene@cet.edu and be sure to provide your contact information, including a phone number where you can be reached. You can also call Lisa McFarland at 304-243-2479.

Leading players through the game in various video segments is Chuck Wood, Ph.D., director of the Center for Educational Technologies and the author of a book and many papers on the geology of the moon. Wood writes a monthly column on the moon for Sky and Telescope and is the author of The Modern Moon: A Personal View. He also created and oversees the Lunar Photo of the Day website.

Debbie Denise Reese, Ph.D., senior educational researcher at the Center for Educational Technologies, heads the project.

The game—minimalist compared to the typical top-selling commercial sports games and shoot-'em-ups—has scored high marks with young people.

"I LOVE this game," one student wrote after testing Selene. "The videos are very informative. The graphics and transitions are outstanding. I love putting my imagination to work. I think science classes should be replaced with this game—seriously! I don't remember learning this much in school about the formation of planets."

Georgia Tech's Ian Bogost, an internationally recognized game designer, led the game design with a student team at Georgia Tech. James Oliverio, professor and director of the Digital Worlds Institute at the University of Florida whose credits include five Emmy Award-winning soundtracks for film and television, composed and engineered the game's sound resources. Ben Hitt, director of the Wheeling Jesuit University Schenk Center for Informatic Sciences, leads the project's data mining.

Initial results of the study are expected later this year.