Serious Games to discover the laws of Newtonian physics
Mecanika is a physics-based puzzle Serious Game designed by François Boucher-Genesse to help players intuitively learn classical mechanics concepts -- kinematics and dynamics. The game is the result of collaboration between the Montreal game studio CREO and the University of Quebec At Montreal
Intended for students aged 15-17, Mecanika is based on 30 years of research in the didactics of science and aims to make abstract concepts of mechanical physics, like gravity and inertia, accessible. Rather than teaching formulas, the game allows players to immediately jump into these concepts by experimenting and visualizing the effects of forces in space.
According to François Boucher-Genesse, Mecanika is a glimpse of what the future of education will look like: a game you get to play as homework and analyze in the classroom.
The game’s goal is to light up as many stars as possible along a path by guiding small scouts correctly. The scouts are produced by a machine and are basically inert boxes.
In order to succeed, you have at your disposal a series of robots that are able to modify the scouts’ trajectory, allowing players to explore the effects of impulses, acceleration and gravity on moving objects.
At the introduction level, you start in a zero-gravity environment with a punching robot already placed at the exit of the machine, which will give scouts an impulse in the right direction. Players have to place another impulse robot in the level, which will give an equally powerful hit downward. Most students will at this point place the impulse robot directly over the second star, expecting the scout to move in the Y axis only. This is a misconception that Hestenes identified as “CI3 - last force to act determines motion”. Players will eventually realize that both impulses have an impact on the scout’s direction, and place the punching robot over the first star to reach the second one.
Research results for Mecanika can be found at http://mecanika.ca/pdf/telecharge.php?pdf=mecanika_GLS.pdf and a demo can be found here
The first version of Mecanika has been available online for free since 2011 at Physica, on CREO’s GAME FOR SCIENCE website.
Now Mecanika is to be adapted and revamped for iOS and Android tablets.