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Game-based learning opportunities often help students to develop skills and apply knowledge that would otherwise remain too abstract, but few have evidence of their success. Mecanika, focused on developing student understanding of the principles of kinematics and dynamics, offers a unique, creative, and engaging way to see physics principles in practice.
The game itself is fairly straightforward. Players are presented with a series of increasingly difficult challenges, focusing on “scout” robots (that do not move on their own) a “blow-o-matic” that propels the scout robots, and stars that need to be activated by having scout robots pass over them twice. Each level offers a series of obstacles to the easy completion of these tasks, each getting progressively more challenging and requiring a better understanding of the principles at work in the “problem.”
The makers of Mecanika have studies to back their claims that students who used the game as assigned homework actually performed better on exams than students who were assigned more traditional, abstract problem sets. Once you’ve experienced the game, you can see why that is the case.
With very little explanation and quite a few challenges, the game forces students to truly put into practice what they have learned about dynamics and kinematics, of course, but also requires problem solving, analysis, and a bit of self-confidence as well—all of which would translate well into an exam situation.
Students may get stuck and frustrated, but one of the benefits of Mecanika is that there is no “fail.” Even when you fail to accomplish the goal, the game allows you to continue to try until you get it right, a feature that will encourage perseverance in addition to all of these other skills. For older students, these skills are key to their success not only in the classroom but also in their university years and, later, in their careers.
Mecanika is a brilliant addition to any higher-level physics classroom. Use it as homework, as the study did, and allow students to truly experience how physics works in a “real life” scenario. Use it as a classroom activity to help show physics principles at work. However you use it, it will benefit your students immensely simply because it offers so many different avenues to learning.
For more information visit: http://www.gameforscience.com/physica/