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Center for Educational Technologies projects have ended (except Challenger Learning Center) and are no longer funded.

Selene Notches Visualization Challenge Award from NSF, Science

Mon Oct 15 2007

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The Selene videogame, created by the NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future as part of an investigation into how students can best learn NASA science through videogames, has been honored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the journal, Science.

Selene won a semifinalist honor in the category of interactive media in the 2007 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge sponsored by NSF and Science. The competition recognizes outstanding achievements by scientists, engineers, visualization specialists, and artists who are innovators in the use of visual media to promote understanding of research results and scientific phenomena.

More than 200 entries from 34 states and 23 countries representing every continent except Antarctica were received for this year’s competition. Staff members from NSF and Science screened the entries, and an outside panel of experts in scientific visualization selected the winners.

The Physics Education Technology Project created by Nobel Laureate physicist Carl Wieman and his team at the University of Colorado won first place in the Interactive Media category.

Selene, named after the Greek lunar goddess, helps players learn the major geologic processes scientists believe formed the modern Moon. Selene players create their own moon and then pepper it with impact craters and flood it with lava to mimic the development of Earth’s moon. The game takes about an hour to play, but gamers can spend more time cruising through Selene’s various resources about the moon. The game was released in May for research and for play by youth ages 13-18. The study is ongoing, and more participants are welcome to join by visiting the Selene website more information.

Leading players through the game in various video segments is Dr. Chuck Wood, director of the Center for Educational Technologies®, home to the Classroom of the Future™, and the author of a book and many papers on the geology of the moon. Wood writes a monthly column on the moon for Sky and Telescope and is the author of The Modern Moon: A Personal View. He also created and oversees the Lunar Photo of the Day website.

Dr. Debbie Denise Reese, senior educational researcher at the Center for Educational Technologies, heads the project.

The game has earned positive reviews from players.

"I LOVE this game," one student wrote after testing Selene. "The videos are very informative. The graphics and transitions are outstanding. I love putting my imagination to work. I think science classes should be replaced with this game—seriously! I don’t remember learning this much in school about the formation of planets."

In March Selene was named to the list of the most talked about games at the 2007 Game Developers Conference, joining such well-known commercial games as Final Fantasy XII, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Spore, and Company of Heroes among others.

Georgia Tech’s Ian Bogost, an internationally recognized game designer, led the game design with a student team at Georgia Tech. James Oliverio, professor and director of the Digital Worlds Institute at the University of Florida whose credits include five Emmy Award-winning soundtracks for film and television, composed and engineered the game’s sound resources. Ben Hitt, director of the Wheeling Jesuit University Schenk Center for Informatic Sciences, leads the project’s data mining.

The study is ongoing. First round results confirm the sensitivity of the Selene flowometer assessment tool. It measures self-perceptions of gameplay experience. It asks the player, “Right now, how challenging is the game and how skilled are you at playing the game?”

"We use the flowometer to determine the average player’s perception of gameplay experience," Reese said. “Then we can look at the gameplay of any one player and determine where the individual’s gameplay excelled and where it lagged. We can determine when the player experienced insights that accelerated progress toward the gameplay goal. Tools like the flowometer will eventually allow instructional systems to automate personalized instruction. This technology is applicable to synthetic worlds within which large populations of people share gameplay in persistent, virtual worlds.”