Friday, December 11, 2015

Serious Games As A Novel Paradigm for Learning Quantum Mechanics


The Georgia Institute of Technology is this year’s winner in the Students' Choice category of the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge with Particle in a Box: The Quantum Mechanics Game.

The game is part of the research project Particle in a Box - An Experiential Approach to Quantum Mechanics Educationconducted by a Georgia Tech’s team consisting of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students from various disciplines who have collaborated on the design, development and evaluation of the Educational Serious Game.

Quantum Mechanics (QM) is the foundation of diverse science and engineering disciplines such as semiconductor physics, materials science, and nanotechnology. However, people almost unanimously agree that QM is extremely challenging to learn - especially for newcomers into the field.

Students may spend several classes learning mathematical formulas that represent the behavior of particles in the QM world, but they may not form a clear intuitive understanding of these concepts. This is because, unlike classical mechanics, we do not have a first-hand experience of QM phenomena. In fact, the laws of QM completely contradict our everyday experiences. 

Through a series of experimentations with digital media, the research project addressed how games could foster experience-based learning of QM.

Gameplay

Particle-in-a-Box aims to provide students with a unique learning environment that facilitates experiential understanding of QM concepts. The abstract nature of Quantum Mechanics makes it hard to visualize even for experts in the field. Existing visualizations (and very few existing games) for QM are highly technical, too focused on mathematical formulae, and difficult to approach.

Particle in a Box combines principles from game design, scientific visualization, and QM physics to create a unique experience that allows players to learn QM concepts by comparing the Classical and QM environments.

The Educational Serious Game consists of two interactive virtual worlds presenting the classical and quantum mechanical manifestations of the common "particle in a box" model.

When players begin the game, their avatar “Psi” is first taken through the classical world where the environment is governed by physics laws found in our daily lives, where they encounter potential and kinetic energies and the predictability of position and momentum. A strange transition then takes them to the quantum world where they experience a Nano scaled environment in which energies are quantized and only probabilities are known.


Particle in a Box Screenshot: Classical World



Particle in a Box Screenshots: Quantum World

Intended for Undergraduate Students (18 - 22 years) who are interested in Quantum Mechanics, Solid State Physics, and Microelectronic Theory courses, or with an interest in these subjects, the game’s challenge is to apply the physics concepts learnt during the tutorial levels and transfer knowledge gained from those concepts to formulate a strategy that would help the players progress through the various levels of the game.

Particle-in-a-Box brings dynamic interactivity to the presentation of QM concepts, creating a novel way to experience them.