Icon for: Seth Cooper

SETH COOPER

Northeastern University
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Michael Stone

    Michael Stone

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2017 | 09:50 a.m.

    This gamification of synthetic biology is really interesting. I'm curious about the target audience for players. Depending on the grade-level you anticipate engaging with this, have you considered the implications this could have in introductory genetics/biology courses (perhaps even at the high school level)? Does the game have explicit links back to fundamental DNA displacement reaction principles, or are they only implied? I'm curious about the rationale behind the design choice either way.

     
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  • Icon for: Seth Cooper

    Seth Cooper

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 05:37 p.m.

    Our goal was to make the game as broadly accessible as possible.  The game does have some ties back to underlying DNA on the website and in some introductory animations in the game, although most of the in-game explanation is focused on explaining how to play.  However, most of the game rules are derived from DNA displacement principles, so it is possible that with some bridging information or activity the game could be a fun introduction!

     
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  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2017 | 03:00 p.m.

    I think the fact that game rules match DNA displacement principles is what got me excited about the affordances of this for helping people learn about DNA and genetics. Like you, I think the game itself can serve as the major part of the introduction to DNA and genetics with some additional resources to bridge (as you say) to what geneticists and genetic engineers actually do and the goals they have. 

    I want to suggest that you read the work of Jim Gee on games and learning and Constance Steinkuhler on kids' learning in the context of Worlds of Warcraft. The really big deal idea in what they wrote about is the reflection that happens between episodes of game play and the roles that websites they interact on play in helping them do that reflection and make sense of the rules of the game. The thing that strikes me here is that even if many players' interest is mostly in the rules of the game and what they can build with the components, the discussion as a whole will help everyone who participates learn about genetics and genetic engineering as they discuss between playing episodes. Lots of potential here (see my note below also about my like of the low floor/no ceiling.

     
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  • Icon for: Seth Cooper

    Seth Cooper

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 08:13 p.m.

    I should mention, the game is mainly focused on the structural properties of DNA, to use DNA as a building block; so it might not be especially well-suited for introducing genetics.

     
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  • Icon for: Chris Thorn

    Chris Thorn

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 12:00 a.m.

    I followed up on the web site. I'm interested in the target audience as well. Would this tool be appropriate for advanced high school students? I was thinking about the potential use for a challenged pitched medical engineering undergrads. 

     
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  • Icon for: Seth Cooper

    Seth Cooper

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 05:40 p.m.

    We are hoping that the game could be played by younger players.  I've certainly seen high school students figure out how to play when we have demoed the game. It has also been used as an introduction in a master's level synthetic biology class. But I don't know of it being used with younger students in a classroom setting yet!

     
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  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 11:01 a.m.

    This is very neat. To me, it fits in the genre of "toys" that help players gain tacit understanding of some set of phenomena. Some players are able, by themselves, to extract principles, and all players become ready for getting to normative understanding in the context of instruction or guided reflection. It seems to be a low-floor and high-ceiling (maybe no-ceiling) game -- i.e., everyone can get in easily, and it allows doing more and more sophisticated things as players gain more sophisticated understanding. Other "toys" that fit this genre that I know about are Paper Mechatronics and HandiMate. There are others; these are ones that come to mind.

    I have three questions for you:

    1. What are the different ways you see this being used? Clearly, one way is as a game and another is use by professionals. How else do you see it being used, and who do you see being attracted to it?

    2. What facilities do you have in the system to help players/users get started being successful? Or why don't you need them?

    3. What resources, if any, do you have in the environment to help players/users make sense of what they are doing and connect what they are tacitly learning to the thinking and normative knowledge of those in the field?

    Janet

     
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  • Icon for: Seth Cooper

    Seth Cooper

    Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 05:42 p.m.

    1. The main use case is as a game, for crowdsourcing the design of new devices through gameplay. We have been curious to see what kinds of things players build. We also imagine it could be useful as an educational introduction to synthetic biology. In both those cases, the use is by novices without prior experience in synthetic biology. Another possibility may be professional use as a design interface (similar to VisualDSD) although we have not explored that as of yet.
    2. There is a set of introductory tutorial levels meant to teach players how to play.  They start out relatively simple, with just a few pieces of DNA, and get more complex as new concepts are introduced.
    3. There is some information on the science behind the game on the website (http://nanocrafter.org/science), and there are some in-game animations that explain what the objects in the game represent in terms of actual DNA.

     
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  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2017 | 03:02 p.m.

    As I said above, because the game rules and genetics and DNA rules match, you're already most of the way there in affording learning; what's left is to figure out how to encourage learning of genetics and genetic engineering from the experiences the players are having.

     
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  • Icon for: Henry Jakubowski

    Henry Jakubowski

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 18, 2017 | 07:30 a.m.

    I think this would be useful in introductory chemistry classes studying noncovalent intermolecular forces (IMFs) between two .   Students generally get the idea of shape complementarity and maximizing attractive IMFs while minimizing repulsive ones.  This game would allow them to better understand dissociation of two species, which in your terms would be viewed as strand displacement.  Have any intro chemistry classes at the college level contacted you about its use?

     
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    Beverly DeVore-Wedding
  • Icon for: Seth Cooper

    Seth Cooper

    Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 08:16 p.m.

    You might also be interested in another project I am working on, Foldit, which has a video here (http://stemforall2017.videohall.com/presentatio...), which might also be suited to demonstrating shape complementarity and IMFs.

     
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  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Researcher
    May 18, 2017 | 07:53 a.m.

    I have thought when crowd-sourcing and citizen science projects  team with active researchers, in addition to the motivation and education that take place, they can play an important role as problem or question finders, hypothesis generators, which can then enrich the research program that the "pros" are doing.  It seems as though this is a real potential here.  In addition to the fun of the game, do the players get feedback from your team about the scientific or engineering interest that some of their creations generate?

     

     
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  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2017 | 03:11 p.m.

    Excellent point. There are a lot of possibililties with this game. I have been preaching for years that a tool is as good as the way it is used. I'm pretty psyched that the commenters this week have made so many good suggestions. I hope the developers feel the same way.

     

    And one more suggestion, developers: What about making the game an add-on to museum exhibits about genetics and genetic engineering? I'm going to put you in touch with somebody who might want to talk to you and work with you on that.

     

    Janet

     
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  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.