Using games to introduce abstract concepts in molecular science

A Harrisburg University professor will be among the presenters at an upcoming Paris conference focused on teaching biology in the 21st century using video games, active learning, and digital lab books.

Dr. Melanie Stegman will discuss her experience as a scientist attempting to develop educational video games. Dr. Stegman left the biochemistry lab in 2008 and since then has learned education research, video game design, iterative development and project management and programming. She will present a summary of the state of molecular biology education and compare it to what we know about molecules.

“Games have a way of making complicated things fun and computers can now make abstract things easy to interact with. This means that molecular science education can be delivered to a younger, more general audience. How should we do this? What details are overwhelming and which are key to a deeper understanding? If we present key concepts as part of a video game, are player overwhelmed or are they encouraged by the science?,” explains Dr. Stegman.

The CRI is a professional organization focused on pedagogical innovation in biology.

The assistant professor of video game development and lead developer for HU’s Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies also owns her own simulation games company called Molecular Jig Game. Dr. Stegman has developed a game before arriving to Harrisburg University, dubbed “Immune Defense,” which will be tested by a class at HU.

Immune Defense is a real time strategy game that was funded by a competitive grant from the National Institutes of Health, Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH/NIAID). In this strategy simulation game pilot a nanobot in a body and command the cells of the immune system as they fight off invading bacteria. Players learn how cells interact with their environment while piloting the nanobot. Anyone can access Immune Defense and can pay what they see fit to play it. Dr. Stegman created the game Immune Defense while she was the director of the Learning Technologies Program at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C., a post she held from 2010-2014. The game, found at Molecularjig.com, is based on research she conducted on the game “Immune Attack.” Her research paper is available at MoledcularJig.com/research.

Additionally, she is working with students and Chemistry Professors Dr. Richard Jackson and Dr. Andrea Nagy to develop a game that gives its players a closer look at molecular-based equilibrium. The simulation game will act as a tool for students to help them understand chemical reactions at the molecular level.

The CRI conference is scheduled for November 30th in Paris.

About Harrisburg University: Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private non-profit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields to a diverse student body. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717.901.5146 or email, Connect@HarrisburgU.edu.