MdBio’s Survival! Video Game Aims to Reshape Science Lessons

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I’m no STEM whiz so when I heard there was a video game designed for struggling high school biology students, I was all over it. I was up to the challenge. The game is called Survival! and it comes from the MdBio Foundation as a new project that will allow the organization to have a positive impact on more students.

Considering the fact that I’m a rising college freshman who hasn’t taken biology since my freshman year of high school, I needed a severe refresher before I could get into the game. But thankfully, MdBio Foundation Senior Director Jen Colvin was there to conjure up all those old lessons about dominant and recessive traits and homozygous and heterozygous genes and the like. Now I was ready to get into this game.

My mission was to capture the floating bubbles with the genes inside and make sure they went into the correctly labeled log. Easy enough, right? Wrong.

Needless to say, I failed miserably on my first try with only a slight improvement during my second round.

Thankfully, I’m the kind of student for whom MdBio developed this program. “We developed this program because for many kids, science is boring,” said Colvin.

Guilty. I know that story all too well. But while I struggled through it, the game was entertaining and certainly more enjoyable than some of the classroom instruction I lived through in my high school days.

The Foundation designed the game for students to look at science with a new perspective. In partnership with the University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Lab, MdBio was able to design the game with the help of students who are part of its target audience. BreakAway, LTD., a leader in the development of serious games, will develop Survival! and the rest of the series.

The Foundation’s idea for the series is that teachers will assign parts of the game as homework for practice and formative assessments to check understanding. Teachers are able to view students’ scores so that they can better adapt lessons to the topics where students are struggling the most.

Teachers also have the ability to manipulate the levels of the game to cater to students ranging from on-level to advanced placement.

“This allows teachers to better target their lessons,” Colvin said. “It also gives students the opportunity to prepare for classroom instruction ahead of time.”

The best part is that these features will come at no financial burden to schools as the Foundation is offering the game for free nationwide. But even though it’s free to schools, it comes with a hefty price tag for development. With the anticipated date of a fall 2013 release, the Foundation is focused on raising the $3 million needed to finish Survival!’s development and the additional $3 million needed to finish the entire series.

Some companies in the Montgomery County biotech community such as MedImmune and Human Genome Sciences have already stepped up to support MdBio in this endeavor. But it’s not enough… yet. MdBio is looking for companies to help out as well.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the MdBio Foundation and Survival!, please contact Jennifer Colvin.

Find out more information about Survival!


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