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NASA's 'DUST' Gets Students, Young Women Excited About STEM

NASA's 'DUST' Gets Students, Young Women Excited About STEM

NASA has just released an alternate reality game called DUST in order to encourage teens, especially young women and minorities, to get excited about STEM.

In the game, adults fall unconscious because of a mysterious dust from a meteor shower, according to a press release. “It is up to the players, whose target ages are 13-17, to save the world [and their parents' lives] by the end of seven weeks of play.”

"In DUST there are no fixed outcomes," said Bill Cirillo, the NASA Langley Research Center aerospace engineer who started working with the game's developers almost two years ago in the release. "It's up to the students to move the story along and do problem solving using the scientific method and critical thinking skills."

According to the release, players can receive new parts of the story and science clues “two to three times a week through social media, email and game apps. They work as a community to add their own input, guide the action, do research and provide solutions to help rescue the adult characters.”

“Alternate reality games are interactive networked stories that use the real world as a backdrop,” the release said. “Players sign onto a website to interact directly with characters in the game and use a variety of media platforms, such as the Web; social media apps including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram; email; cell phones; museums and even printed materials to collaborate with each other and solve mysteries or puzzles.”

DUST, the release said, was developed by Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, the University of Maryland, in College Park, and Tinder Transmedia, also in Provo, “with help from engineers at NASA Langley in Hampton, Virginia and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. It is the first of two games being developed as part a $2-million grant from the National Science Foundation's Advancing Informal STEM Learning Program.”

“Students from different majors, including physics, biology, information technology, advertising, film, graphic design and illustration, contributed to the game's design, art and programming,” the release said. “Teen co-designers and beta testers from Sousa and Stuart-Hobson Middle Schools in Washington D.C., Dixon Middle School in Provo, and other locations also tested some of DUST's mobile apps and its player community website.”

According to the release, “DUST's developers hope during the course of the game that players will learn more about science, develop skills needed to form and test theories, and become more adept at collecting and analyzing data, communicating their ideas and proposing solutions.

"It's nice to be involved in an innovative gaming effort that embraces scientific complexities," said Mark Lupisella, the engineer at Goddard who has also worked on DUST for a year in the release.

For more about the NASA Langley directorate that is working with the game developers, go here

For more information about DUST go here.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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