Developed with an NIH grant, Ubiquitous Bio is a series of four biology-themed games. These casual mobile device games are designed to be played in short stints throughout the day: while waiting for the bus, between classes, etc. Teachers are able to access data generated by the games, which could help inform future lesson plans.
Weatherlings is a collectible card battle game in which players pit their decks of weather-dependent cards against other players’ decks. This game is the first created on the Ubiquitous Games platform under development at MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program (STEP) lab.
Created in partnership with the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University, Weatherlings is an online card game aimed at middle-school aged students who are learning about weather and climate. Game play in Weatherlings consists of short battles set in real U.S. cities in the recent past, for which the game builders have collected a record of actual weather conditions. In each battle, a player plays his or her own cards and tries to defeat an opponent’s cards. The twist that differentiates Weatherlings from other card games is that cards’ attacks and defenses depend on weather conditions at the time and place where the battle is happening. In Weatherlings, these short battles are designed to be played “casually,” after school or between classes on portable devices.
After logging in to the game, and before starting to battle, a player builds one or more decks of cards customized for particular weather conditions. Based on the strengths of the decks they have built, and their knowledge and interpretation of climate graphs for potential arenas, players choose the location of the battle from three possible sites. After the arena is chosen, students choose the best deck for the arena they have settled on and begin the battle. In that battle, students are prompted to predict the weather in a given climate for each battle round, like July in Miami, Florida, to gain in-game bonuses.
People want to buy beetles with certain traits and it’s your job to breed them! Choose the contracts you want to work on, then mate the right beetles to produce the desired offspring. Use your knowledge of Mendelian genetics to work with increasingly difficult patterns of inheritance and maximize your profits. How much money can you earn in the beetle business?
Strange and scary monsters are taking over! You must genetically engineer your own band of monsters so they will be suited to fight each opponent. Use the Universal Monster Genetic Code to research which proteins you need to synthesize. Adjust the nucleotides in the RNA strands and match the correct amino acids to create polypeptide chains without mutations. If you’re successful, the resulting phenotype will give your monster the ability to defeat the enemies!
In a world full of islands each with their own bunny population, small changes to the environment can have noticeable evolutionary effects. You have the power to make environmental changes on your own island, such as increasing temperature, adjusting the local flora, and even introducing a virus. By collecting data over many generations and looking at the proportion of certain traits in your population, you will discover evolutionary trends and learn to predict future population changes.
Mysterious species are connected in complex food webs that are under attack. Aliens have been chomping on these ecosystems and each time they decimate one species, it has a drastic effect on the other interconnected species. Players must examine the relationships between species to understand and predict the population increases and decreases. If they can use this knowledge to determine which species was the latest victim, they will be able to restore the food web to its balanced state!
A quasi-experimental research design accompanied the development of the games. Game data logs, observations, interviews and teacher and student surveys are additional data sources that inform the research on the educational efficacy of these games.
Early qualitative results indicated students were motivated to play the games, they didn’t feel the same as regular schoolwork, and some were be more engaged in biology class once they had started playing.
Learn more about the findings of the research initiative in the following publications:
The Ubiquitous Biology series of games was developed under an NIH grant building on a collaboration with the National University of Singapore.