Science Accessibility and Education
Scientific Access and Inclusion
Why It Matters
Students who have received hands-on experience with STEM career outcomes are more likely to consider those careers for themselves. Expanding access to STEM career explorations for middle and high school students would then increase the quantity and diversity of students going on to pursue related careers.
Expanding that access is challenging, and while significant work has been done there are certain factors that are difficult to control. Proximity to STEM hubs, for example, and whether educators in a given school or district have personal connections with academic or industrial science and engineering professionals are two systemic challenges.
We Need New Solutions.
What We’re Doing
Over the last decade, digital game technology has matured significantly and interest in educational games has surged. Qualitative studies have shown the power of digital media to subvert stereotypes, such as Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura, who inspired black female students to pursue STEM careers. By expanding STEM career explorations into a digital game format, students’ experience will no longer be limited by today’s STEM professional demographics. Rather, we can imagine and create a scientific experience that inspires without geographical or socio-economic limitation.
To do that, the TerraPrime team of scientists, educators, and product professionals is coming together to design and build a digital game; one uniquely positioned to create a familiar, inspirational landscape while exposing students to the realities of STEM career paths – all in an engaging and entertaining package. We have crafted a digital 3D game in a laboratory setting, using modern and exciting gamification techniques, to emphasize and expose students to the day-to-day experience of biochemistry lab research. Our goal is to use and review this game in classrooms, partnering with science educators across the country to assess, document, and publish the impact of our educational video game on student career intent and inspiration.
The Future of STEM Accessibility.
Online Learning and Societal Relevance
The past year has introduced significant changes in education, primarily through varying degrees of remote and internet-based schooling. There were a number of difficulties in designing and implementing new techniques, but they were nonetheless required for the success of both our students and our educators. Many of those hurdles, such as internet access, educator training, risk assessments, and implementation costs have now been surpassed, and most districts across the country have even become comfortable with remote learning concepts and techniques.
With these challenges surpassed, today’s educational landscape is in a novel position, one in which, for the first time in history, an educational game such as ours is truly viable. The potential to reach students and engage with them through technology has never been higher, and TerraGames intends to utilize the new tools and access techniques at our disposal to aid educators in bringing the next generation of STEM professionals into their futures.
The Educational Landscape is Ready for Change.
Gamification of Lab Research to Improve Access to Scientific Career Exploration
Students who have hands-on experiences with science career outcomes are more likely to consider those careers for themselves. Expanding access to scientific career explorations for students during the middle school and high-school years would increase the number and diversity of students who pursue research careers. However, the demographics of current research professionals are an inherent barrier: research positions are occupied disproportionately by white men. Students who engage in scientific career explorations are therefore less likely to encounter a role model from an underrepresented demographic, perpetuating and reinforcing preconceived notions about what scientists look like. To overcome this fundamental limitation, we have developed a digital 3D game in a laboratory setting with the aim of creating an engaging lab experience accessible to all students. Using modern gamification techniques, we have crafted gameplay emphasizing the day-to-day experience of biochemistry lab research. While interest in educational games has surged in the last decade, little has been reported about the impact of educational video games on student career intent. We are now partnering with science educators across the country to design and implement studies to assess the impact of our game on student career intent.