STEM Mio

STEM Mio aims to impact students, family and the community by engaging students in inquiry-based STEM learning, educating entire families on STEM careers and Latino role models, and preparing students for college pathways to STEM careers.


Latinos make up the youngest and fastest growing demographic in the US but remain underrepresented in STEM professions. While clearly capable, Latino students often lack familiarity with potential STEM careers, Latino STEM role models, and the college resources available to them.

To address this, the Center for Games & Impact (CGI) invites you and your community to join STEM Mio, a digital empowerment platform and community designed to support Latino students and their families in realizing STEM college and career pathways.

(click image to view Platform Screenshot)

STEM Mio is an innovative and targeted approach to STEM learning and college preparation, funded by the National Science Foundation, and created by Learning Scientists at CGI (Arizona State University), in an exciting collaboration with Vme Media (VME), E-Line Media, and the Hispanic Association of College & Universities (HACU).

STEM Mio Platform

Powered by CGI’s ThriveCast platform, the STEM Mio program supports middle and high school Latino youth as they explore their personal passions, match those to STEM futures, connect with Latino STEM mentors, and gain the experiences to become strong college applicants. The STEM Mio journey is inspired through peer stories, supported through carefully designed learning challenges and peer championing, and culminates in real-world achievements.

The STEM Mio Journeys blend digital experiences (3D immersive games, career and personality inventories, online mentors, etc) with real-world experiences (doing hands on STEM activities, interviewing professionals, completing college and scholarship applications, etc). Notably, the game platform goes beyond STEM to help shape students through self-re ection, academic goal-setting, becoming a student mentor, and supporting strategic planning for college and careers.

Students

To support learning, students play STEM Mio in cohorts, either with their teacher/facilitator, or with other students online. Students can review each other’s accomplishments, and Teachers and STEM professionals give feedback as mentors. Learning is managed through a Teacher Dashboard, which shows players’ progress and accomplishments. The students, mentors, and teachers support each other as they explore STEM learning, grow their potential, and chart a course for college and career success.

Family

As a companion to the game-based journey and learning activities, VME has created a television series, Generación STEM, to engage entire families with STEM, college, and the bene ts of these careers. These episodes are available in English within STEM Mio, and in Spanish for families to watch together on TV and online.

This work is happening in partnership with our stakeholders and partners on this grant:

vmetvVME Media, (Spanish public television), is creating a TV series ‘Generaćion Digital’ to focus on STEM Latino professionals, a ‘day-in-the-life’, which focuses on how to enter these fields from multiple perspectives (professionals, students, educators and families). This will be aired weekly to a family audience with links to STEM Mio community events, the ASU journey platform, and college admissions and tours information.

HACUHACU (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities) will be providing their college preparation resources, workshops, and nationwide network of schools to help support Latino students prepare to succeed in college applications and studies. As an exciting goal, HACU will provide campus tours to 1300 Hispanic students who ‘level up’ their future in the STEM Mio game platform and earn this exciting opportunity.

E-Line-MediaE-Line Media, game design studio, creates innovative STEM-related video games and hosts a nationwide annual STEM Video Game Design Challenge. Their STEM-related game, Gamestar Mechanic, will be offered in a Spanish-friendly version with connections to game design careers. This focused game, and their Design Challenge will be included in the TV series, featuring Hispanic teens doing STEM and highlighting the exciting things they design.


For information, collaborations, or to bring STEM Mio to your community, please contact Dr. Anna Arici at anna.arici@asu.edu. This work was supported through a grant from the National Science Foundation.



PBS Kids Kart Kingdom Parent Impact Guide

PBS Kids Kart Kingdom Player Impact Guide

Destiny Player Impact Guide

FoldIt: Puzzles to Save Mankind

This post is by Deena Gould, graduate student fellow with the Center for Games & Impact.


Foldit is the classic discovery game. An intriguing scientific problem is turned into a playful challenge and suddenly thousands of ordinary people begin contributing to the solution.   Even before Foldit was released in 2008, I was intrigued by the puzzle of protein folding. Since proteins are involved in almost all cellular processes, it seemed that their importance and prevalence would have led us to know more about how they’re formed? Why is it so hard to figure out the shape of the protein if you know the sequence of its amino acids? Would the Foldit game help me understand more about protein folding? Could I contribute to solving puzzles that had eluded scientists?

Foldit player screen with protein puzzle

Foldit player screen with protein puzzle

Game Play

In Foldit, the challenge of figuring out the shape of the protein given the constituent components was turned into a 3D digital jigsaw puzzle. The player turns and twists a protein model to simulate and find the most favorable interactions among the chemical groups. Overall, Foldit reminds me of the Rubric’s cube puzzles that my mother used to love. In Foldit, you quickly learn to make the protein as compact as possible, avoid empty space, and avoid having components clash. Tools with funky names like “shake” and “wiggle” show you how to fix the clashes, improve the backbone, and reassemble the side chains. Juicy feedback in the beginning stages keeps you believing that after just a few more puzzles, and with a little luck, you might be able to unlock some secrets and save mankind from horrible diseases.

Feedback in Foldit

Feedback in Foldit

The immersive problem-solving environment enables you to continue improving your skills and coaxes you into trying more challenging puzzles. When you learn that the models you manipulate represent actual proteins that scientists have posted for the community to solve, the game feels real. There are competitions and there are collaborations. I used the in-game chat feature and found that even on a Saturday night fellow players were happy to help me learn to use the “rubber band” feature to change the strength of atomic repulsion. There is a chat tool that allows players to upload a screen-shot useful to discussions between mentor and mentee or peer collaborations.

Game Design

How does someone design a puzzle game if they don’t know the solution to the puzzle? Foldit uses a molecular modeling program based on current knowledge about biochemistry to provide feedback to the players and score the puzzle solutions. Feedback is based on measurements of how chemically stable the folded structure would be based on having the lowest free energy or most favorable set of chemical interactions. Higher scores are awarded for keeping repulsive forces apart, compacting the molecule, burying the hydrophobic chains, and creating or maintaining hydrogen bonds. This seemed like an interesting way to design a game with “real challenges”.

Game Impact and Research

The opportunity to be a “research collaborator” is a powerful motivator. In Foldit, players can actually help create new knowledge that scientists use to build drugs that benefit humanity. When scientists know how a protein folds, they know its structure and can begin to understand its chemical processes that cause or prevent cell malfunctions. So when Foldit players contribute solutions to protein puzzles, they may be generating new knowledge useful to the creation of drugs that interact with the protein and alter the chemical processes to prevent or reverse diseases.

I had heard about the 57,000 Foldit players credited with scientific authorship in the publication Nature, so I decided to look it up. The Nature publication reports that the collective power of many players’ protein puzzle-solving provided useful results that were equal to, or better than, the computer generated simulations scientists had been relying on previously. Since there is a huge landscape to search for optimal protein folding, using the crowd-sourcing contributions of many people has been genuinely beneficial.

Prior to reading the Nature publication, I was a bit skeptical about the authenticity of the impact of Foldit’s crowdsourcing. How were the players able to do something that the computer algorithms couldn’t do, or do it better than the algorithms, if the game rules that gave the players feedback were based on these computer algorithms? The explanation is that human players were much better than computers at generating solutions that require divergent thinking about how to work through molecular instability in unique and creative ways. The publication also reports that good Foldit players have a greater intuitive sense for 3 dimensions and spatial reasoning than the computer. This information about human learning, human cognition, and artificial intelligence is as interesting and useful for advances in society as the players’ scientific contributions to protein folding.

Systems Thinking

The idea of using a lot of people to solve protein-folding problems can be just as intriguing as actually solving the biochemical riddles. Foldit has demonstrated that a multiplayer video game can be useful for scientific problem solving.   How far could the intelligence of collective human game playing take us as the corpus builds over time? Will new systems-level properties emerge? How will new technologies change the way we think about the creation of knowledge?


Cooper, S., Khatib, F., Treuille, A., Barbero, J., Lee, J., Beenen, M., Leaver-Fay, A., Baker, D., Popovic, Z., & Foldit players. (2010). Predicting protein structures with a multiplayer online game. Nature, 466: 756 – 760.

Argument Wars Parent Impact Guide

Argument Wars Player Impact Guide

Journey Parent Impact Guide

Journey Player Impact Guide

National Survey, Video Case Studies: Teacher Attitudes about Digital Games in the Classroom

Foldit Impact Guide for Parents

Foldit is an online videogame developed by the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science, in collaboration with the university’s Department of Biochemistry, where players manipulate the structures of real proteins to solve puzzles. Scientists are able to then use the solutions created by players to help conduct important research that helps to find cures for serious diseases, creating real-life impact. Since its release, it has received significant praise from gamers and scientists alike and was an integral factor in understanding important and long misunderstood enzymes in ongoing AIDS research and protein redesign.

Spore Impact Guide for Parents

Educational Relevancy

Every 9 seconds, an American high school student drops out of school, more than a million every year. It is extremely difficult for these young people to find meaningful employment. Many become disenfranchised and disaffected. One of the primary reasons youth cite for dropping out of school is a lack of engagement, thanks to the perceived irrelevancy of the school curriculum to their lives. If this trend continues, over the next 10 years it will cost the nation more than $3 trillion in lost wages, productivity and taxes, plus untold personal suffering and loss of potential. Clearly, making education more relevant, engaging, and motivating is a pressing national priority that impacts nearly every other priority. Given that young people today spend more time engaged with digital media than any other activity, games can enable an increasing portion of this out-of-school digital media time to effectively reinforce in-school learning and learning for life and work.

Games offer a well-designed mix of challenges, rewards, and goals that drive motivation, time-on-task, and levels of engagement that can seamlessly move back and forth between formal and informal learning environments. Games enable players to step into different roles (e.g. scientist, explorer, journalist, inventor, political leader), confront problems, make meaningful choices and explore the consequences of these choices. (See Transformational Play) Games can make learning engaging, social, and relevant. They can give students real agency in ways that static textbooks simply cannot. Beyond making learning relevant and deepening understanding of key content areas, games can support the learning of important 21st century skills such as systems thinking, problem solving, innovation, collective action, and others. In addition to addressing the engagement and motivation challenge, games are also well positioned to address key foundational skills such as early childhood cognitive, language, and literacy development. (See The Doctor’s Cure) Additionally, well-designed intergenerational games can create rich mentoring frameworks that facilitate both literacy and high-order thinking skills for young people through interactions with adults. We caution, however, that games—just like books—are not, at their best, stand-alone educational tools, but need to be integrated into well designed learning systems that use a variety of media, real world interactions, and instructional methods.

Key questions: How can we harness the power for games to remedy the lack of engagement, motivation and relevancy, to help address the problem of high drop outs rates and low on-time graduation rates and build a lifelong love of learning? How can we better assess what educational inventions are successfully motivating and engaging our youth and which are most relevant to productive 21st century lives and careers? How can we build games that facilitate and enrich inter-generational play, talk, and interaction for school success? How do we accomplish this without creating a new digital equity gap based on who does and does not have access either to technology or good mentoring and teaching?

Spore Impact Guide for Teachers

In Spore, the player follows the evolution of an organism all the way from the single-cell stage to the space exploration age. Designed for ages ten and up, Spore is a very immersive experience with many of the player’s choices, especially at the tribal stage and onward, having real consequences in the game’s world. The goal of the game is to create a species and a civilization that one would be proud to call their own. How one goes about accomplishing this goal can vary greatly; their civilization can be war-like, using weapons to get what the player wants or peaceful, using words to get the desired result.

LittleBigPlanet Impact Guide for Players

Spore Impact Guide for Players

Spore puts the player in complete control of a single celled organism, helping to evolve the organism over time to a working civilization and onward into a space age. Designed for ages ten and up, Spore is a very immersive experience with many of the player’s choices, especially at the tribal stage and onward, having real consequences in the game’s world. Play styles can vary greatly; civilizations can be warlike or peaceful while organisms can be herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores. The choice is up to the player.

Atlantis Remixed Project

Atlantis Remixed (ARX) is an international learning and teaching project that uses a 3D multi-user environment to immerse children, ages 9-16, in educational tasks. ARX combines strategies used in commercial games with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation (AtlantisRemixed.Org). More than sugar-coating content to coerce disempowered students into caring about disciplinary knowledge, games can establish worlds where children are transformed into empowered scientists, doctors, reporters, and mathematicians who have to understand disciplinary content to accomplish desired ends. The games we design offer something new to learners; unlike any other form of curriculum, these games offer entire worlds in which learners are central, important participants; a place where the actions of a ten-year old can have significant impact on the world; and a place in which what you know is directly related to what you are able to do and, ultimately, who you become.

Central to this work is the notion of transformational play (See the Educational Leadership article or the researcher article published in Educational Researcher). Students who play transformationally become protagonists who use the knowledge, skills, and concepts of the educational content to first make sense of a situation and then make choices that actually transform the play space and the player—they are able to seehow that space changed because of their own efforts. Transformational play is a theory meant to communicate the power of games for education, highlighting their potential to situationally embody person with intentionality, content legitimacy, and context with consequentiality, attending in particular to the relations among the three. Emerging from a decade of research with Quest Atlantis, the ARX Project now combines strategies used in commercial games with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation.

The Atlantis Remixed Project allows students to travel to virtual places to play educational adventures, talk with other users and mentors, build virtual personae, and eventually create their own games. Game activities comprise both online and off-line learning activities, with a storyline inspiring a disposition towards social action. The Atlantis Remixed Project and Quest Atlantis provide students entire worlds in which they are central, important participants; places where their actions have significant impact on the world, and places in which what one knows is directly related to what they are able to do and, ultimately, who they can become. Explore our site and learn more about this exciting project. Over the last four years, more than 60,000 children on six continents have participated in the Quest Atlantis project, submitting over 100,000 Quests and completing over 100,000 Missions, some of which were assigned by teachers and many of which were chosen by students to complete in their free time. The Atlantis Remixed and Quest Atlantis Projects are in 22 states, 18 countries, more than 1000 classrooms, and the number of schools asking to participate grows daily.

We have demonstrated learning gains in science, language arts, and social studies. Equally important have been reported personal experiences, with teachers and students reporting increased levels of engagement and interest in pursuing the curricular issues outside of school. Students and teachers conduct rich inquiry-based explorations through which they learn particular standards-based content, and at the same time develop pro-social attitudes regarding significant environmental and social issues. Rather than just placing work and play side-by-side, the Atlantis Remixed Project strives to make learning fun and to show kids how they can make a difference.

Unlike any other form of curriculum, these games offer entire worlds in which learners are central, important participants; a place where the actions of a ten-year old can have significant impact on the world; and a place in which what you know is directly related to what you are able to do and, ultimately, who you become. Students who play transformationally become protagonists who use the knowledge, skills, and concepts of the educational content to first make sense of a situation and then make choices that actually transform the play space and the player—they are able to see how that space changed because of their own efforts.

Portal 2 Impact Guide for Parents

Gamestar Mechanic Impact Guide for Teachers

Gamestar Mechanic is grant-funded, and produced through public-private partnerships with E-Line Media and the Institute of Play. The game is geared toward 7-14 year olds and takes players through a series of units designed around the themes of playing to learn, designing to apply, and sharing games created through Gamestar Mechanic in the online community to continue growing into future game designers. Despite the game being geared toward children in late elementary school through middle school, the Gamestar Mechanic experience can be a fun, engaging way for anyone to play and learn about game design. Through the gameplay experience you will get the chance to mod levels in the game and create games of your own.

The Doctor’s Cure Impact Guide for Teachers

The Atlantis Remixed (ARX) Project is an international learning and teaching project that uses 3D multi-user environments to immerse children, ages 9-16, in educational tasks. Students enter roles as “Remixers” who are sent into different worlds and tasked with the responsibility of making impactful decisions. They experience the importance and outcomes of applying their learning in the adventures they are sent on. Through interactions with in-game mentors, Remixers are supplied with the tools necessary to make influential decisions within their world.

The Doctor’s Cure Impact Guide for Players

The Atlantis Remixed (ARX) Project is an international learning and teaching project that uses 3D multi-user environments to immerse children, ages 9-16, in educational tasks. Students enter roles as “Remixers” who are sent into different worlds and tasked with the responsibility of making impactful decisions. They experience the importance and outcomes of applying their learning in the adventures they are sent on. Through interactions with in-game mentors, Remixers are supplied with the tools necessary to make influential decisions within their world.

The Doctor’s Cure Impact Guide for Parents

The Atlantis Remixed (ARX) Project is an international learning and teaching project that uses 3D multi-user environments to immerse children, ages 9-16, in educational tasks. Students enter roles as “Remixers” who are sent into different worlds and tasked with the responsibility of making impactful decisions. They experience the importance and outcomes of applying their learning in the adventures they are sent on. Through interactions with in-game mentors, Remixers are supplied with the tools necessary to make influential decisions within their world.

Gamestar Mechanic Impact Guide for Parents

Gamestar Mechanic Impact Guide for Players

Portal 2 Impact Guide for Players

FoldIt Impact Guide for Players

Foldit is an online puzzle videogame developed by the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science in collaboration with the university’s Department of Biochemistry. First released in 2008 for most computer operating systems, Foldit asks its players to manipulate the structure of actual proteins using a wide variety of the game’s own tools and built-in simulations. Subject to much interest and praise since its release, Foldit is revolutionary in that it hopes its players’ puzzle-solving skills and efforts lead to real-life progress in scientific research and development.

Doctor’s Cure & Common Core

We developed the game-based, The Doctor’s Cure Unit to address two key Common Core elements:  (WHST.6-8.1) teaching persuasive writing techniques in an authentic learning situation and (RST.6-8.10) helping students comprehend texts of steadily increasing complexity as they progress through their education. The games we design offer entire worlds in which learners are central, important participants; a place where the actions of a ten-year old can have significant impact on the world; and a place in which what you know is directly related to what you are able to do and, ultimately, who you become. Central to this work is the notion of transformational play (See the Educational Leadership article or the researcher article published in Educational Researcher). Students who play transformationally become protagonists who use the knowledge, skills, and concepts of the educational content to first make sense of a situation and then make choices that actually transform the play space and the player—they are able to see how that space changed because of their own efforts. Consistent with this theory, the unit is intended to position players as protagonists in a game world where they must use their understanding of persuasive writing and how to gain evidence from complex texts in their role of investigative reporter. In this role and in the fictional world, they come to experience disciplinary content as personally relevant, socially important, and situationally significant.

In terms of persuasive argumentation (WHST.6-8.1), at the core of the experience, players are collecting quotes from people, newspapers, policy briefs, and other sources to build a persuasive argument for whether Dr. Frank should be allowed to continue his work to find a cure on the plague—an argument that requires the player to struggle with whether ends justify means. In support of building their case, they use a persuasive argument tool (PAT) to produce a complex thesis-reason-evidence alignment, leveraging the power of embedded assessments. Here, students collect quotes from game characters and evidence from in-game, grade-relevant sources eventually using them to build an argument in support of their selected thesis. Here, the PAT itself evaluates each piece of evidence in relation to a reason and the final thesis. This embedded assessment within the persuasive argument trope provides recursive feedback—students can return to the PAT again and again until they craft a strong argument. This iterative feedback provides an ongoing assessment of progress at each step in the game instead of holding back that validation until the end product is submitted. Note that they learned how to build such relations among evidence, reasons, and theory in Mission One with a much more constrained set of possible evidence, reasons, and thesis.

Our second Common Core alignment focuses on supporting students in reading and comprehending text in the 6–8 grade band (RST.6-8.10). Common Core states: “Being able to read complex text independently and proficiently is essential for high achievement in college and the workplace and important in numerous life tasks.” Here, the gaming environment is exceptionally beneficial in motivating students to engage complex tasks, while keeping the narrative of the game experience fun and motivating for players. To this end, we are including a set of grade-relevant texts such as journal articles, speeches, and reports. These supplement character “interviews” that students gather as evidence to support their arguments. The texts are at or above grade level, and meet all three Common Core criteria for complex texts (quantitative, qualitative, and reader/task considerations).

To scaffold student engagement of these texts, we created a mechanical Goggle trope… a game element that guides student engagement of the text. As a student looks at a text through these goggles, they are provided a series of questions that ultimately allow them to make inferences or draw conclusions about the text as evidence toward their thesis. In this way, the goggles also serve as another form of pedagogical scaffold supporting students in working at a high-level and developing the necessary skill of identifying relevant information from complex texts. This allows us to balance the tension between engaging game play and higher text complexity. Because of the motivation established through the game play, students are invested in the interrogation of the more complex texts they discover along the way. Not central to the Common Core but central to the power of games, we leverage CONSEQUENTIALITY in helping students understand both the use-value of what they are learning, but also in understanding the complexities of being an investigative reporter in the real world. Because in the real world, an investigator’s attitude and how he or she approaches a witness has a bearing on their willingness to share what they know, we have added the same authenticity to the citizens of the game town as well. Now, our students’ final thesis will be only as good as the evidence they are able to gather. And if they are rude or dismissive of a character they meet, they may not be able to gather enough evidence to make their case.  This addition is difficult to teach in a traditional educational setting, but vital to real-world applications of persuasive techniques, such as investigative reporting. The power of video games allows us to provide students with such authentic learning experiences where traditional schools cannot.

Video Games, Learning, and Literacy

Good Video Games & Good Learning

Game-Based Learning: Hype Vs. Reality

by Alan Gershenfeld on Huff Post Education.

When I started my career in video games in the early 1990s, the idea of a sitting President saying anything positive about video games was pretty much unthinkable. Back then, the medium was routinely vilified by politicians and generally dismissed as a frivolous waste of time by everyone else.

Perceptions of video games are definitely changing… Click here to read the entire piece on the Huffington Post website.

Can Video Games Unite Generations in Learning?

What makers of technology for early education can learn from Sesame Street
By Alan Gershenfeld and Michael Levine

This article emerges from Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies and their effects on policy and society. On Thursday, Aug. 9, Future Tense will host an event called “Getting Schooled by a Third Grader: What Kids’ Gaming, Tweeting, Streaming, and Sharing Tells Us About the Future of Elementary Education” in Washington, D.C. To learn more and to RSVP, visit the New America Foundation website.

Why Educators Should Care About Games