Scientists mix technology, art and roleplay to show teens the earth’s power

An exciting hi-tech game to help high school students understand the power of the earth.

Created by UC scientists, the game ‘Magma Drillers Save Planet Earth’ enables high school students to experience science through educated play and by becoming the stars of the game.
Created by UC scientists, the game ‘Magma Drillers Save Planet Earth’ enables high school students to experience science through educated play and by becoming the stars of the game.

Scientists at an exciting hi-tech game named ‘Magma Drillers Save Planet Earth’ by combining special effects, science, art, and storytelling. The objective behind developing this game is to help high school students understand the power of the earth.

The game incorporates a story, 3D programming, video technology, 3D images, comic art and geography to show secondary school understudies the internal workings of volcanoes and the job of geologists and specialists.

Geological 3D visualization expert Dr. Jonathan Davidson said, “One group jumped out of their seats celebrating when they got the right answer. It was really exciting to see it all come together and see them having fun. Hopefully, it inspired some of them to think about a career in science or engineering in the future.”

UC volcanologist Associate Professor Ben Kennedy said, “The game enables the students to experience science through educated play and by becoming the stars of the game. The students ultimately have to work out how to ‘save the planet’ by finding and safely extracting renewable energy from a volcano. It puts the students in the role of the geologist or engineer, saving planet earth from a potential environmental disaster.”

Dr Davidson said, “We thought it would be really cool to try and replicate the 3D holographic effects in the classroom, especially as a way to inspire younger kids and get them excited about geology and how it makes a difference in the world.”

The game sees students work in teams of four to role play as scientists or engineers trying to drill into a magma chamber to extract its power. Each team member is assigned a job (geophysicist, environmental risk manager, volcanologist, or drilling engineer) and watches entertaining videos relating to their role.

The team members then share their knowledge, as real scientists and engineers would, to identify such things as the location, depth, and budget of the drilling. They input their answers into an online form. At the end of the game, they get to see the consequences of their proposed solution visualized in a 3D hologram.

Dr Kennedy said, “Its characters are a bit silly and hopefully make the students laugh while they’re learning, but we also hope there’s some excitement.”

“Drilling too deep could initiate an eruption and kill everyone. But, get it right; and you can cool down the magma chamber, reduce the risk of a large eruption, make renewable energy and save the earth!”

The project received $30,000 in funding from the Unlocking Curious Minds 2017 funding round, administered by the Ministry for Business, Innovation, and Employment. UC provided in-kind support through staff time, use of equipment and facilities.

The UC scientists hope to share the game with other schools, museums and educational centers around New Zealand.