fluid-ether-logo-locationIridescent, a non-profit dedicated to science and technology education, today announced The Fluid Ether, the first game in a series of science applications for middle-school students called Ethers. Designed to engage students in learning about intangible systems in the natural world, the Ethers apps will include six games: Fluids, Gravity, Momentum, Projectiles, Light and Electricit

“12-year-old kids are sophisticated in their game play, so we set out to create a series that would spark their interest and really challenge them,” said Dr. Kevin Miklasz, Director of Digital Learning for Iridescent.  “We had a simple design goal – to embed the learning into the actual mechanics of the games. Instead of applying arbitrary rules, we developed rules for the games that reflect real-world phenomena. Players will encounter scientific concepts in Ethers like how ecosystems function, how physics particles combine, and how fluids move when pushed. By making the games intrinsically rewarding, we believe children will spend their free time engaging with these educationally meaningful concepts, making their learning natural and self-sustaining.”

Learning Physics through Play
In The Fluid Ether, students learn about the physics of fluid dynamics through game play. Players turn jets on and off to create patterns of play that accomplish simple level objectives like breaking blocks and collecting coins. Players move through increasingly difficult tasks, picking up knowledge of scientific principles along the way. For example, they learn that competing forces of drag and inertia increase disproportionately as ball size increases. By making learning active and tied to gameplay, student gain an intuitive feel for these physics principles while playing the game. The open-ended structure of each level allows students to personalize and direct their learning by setting their own goals in addition to game-provided goals.

Features include:

  • Deeper learning through challenge levels: Open-ended levels are punctuated with directed gameplay, which causes students to reflect on their learning, and tests student understanding. The game also features challenge levels to test student knowledge. These levels will present one objective in a highly constrained format, directing the student’s attention to features they may have taken for granted, and testing their understanding of those features.  For example, in the “density” challenge level, students learn that balls of greater density have more inertia and take longer to accelerate.
  • Co-creation through level editors: Students are encouraged to customize the game and add new challenges through the level editor. When students upload custom levels, the game requires them to provide explanations of the physics concepts used in their level, and how those concepts are incorporated. Teachers will also be able to assign level-creation as a class project. A student-created level with an accompanying written or oral presentation will serve the same purpose in a science classroom that an essay serves in a reading classroom – as a demonstration of understanding and synthesis of the topic.
  • Sharing – Students can publish content to the game and share with other kids.
  • Data for teachers – Data is collected to measure student learning and made available to teachers through an accompanying teacher dashboard (free).
Complementary Resources for Teachers
Classroom resources will be available for The Fluid Ether and other games in the Ethers series. These free teaching tools include discussion starters and homework prompts, grading rubrics and lab manuals.  Iridescent will also hold professional development sessions for teachers in select locations around the country in the 2013-2014 school year.

Games in the Ethers series were co-designed by Iridescent and Robot Super Brain. Development of the Ethers series was made possible through grants from the Office of Naval Research and the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund in the New York Community Trust.

About Iridescent
Since 2006, Iridescent has implemented a scalable model of science and technology exploration that has helped more than 17,000 underserved families through mentorship and hands-on programs with a team of more than 400 engineers and scientists. Programs range from Family Science to online learning portal the Curiosity Machine to Technovation Challenge, the world’s largest technology competition for girls, and more.
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