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NASA Isn’t Playing Games With Minorities, It’s Making Games For Them

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DUST Game Image

“Houston, we have a problem.”

[T]hose were the words spoken by Apollo 13 commander James Lovell, who was on board a seven-day mission to the moon in 1970, when the spacecraft malfunctioned.

When it comes to the “race” race, NASA also has a malfunction – not enough minorities work for the space agency.

It is not entirely the agency’s “problem” though. The fact that minority students lag in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has been extensively covered by the media.

In fact, after Barack Obama won the election and made history as the first African-American President of The United States in 2008, he nominated Charles Bolden as NASA’s first African-American administrator.

Charles F. Bolden Official Portrait
Charles Bolden in the first African-American director of NASA. Since his appointment by President Obama in 2009, the agency has been on a mission to reach minorities and girls. 

Since then, Bolden and NASA have attempted to modernize their image and reach students of all races, in hopes of getting them interested in space.

The agency has frequently targeted students utilizing hip-hop music thanks to an interactive physics program created and funded by corporate behemoth, Honeywell.

Now, in addition to music, NASA is using interactive games in an attempt to reach new markets, in particular, minorities. NASA’s push into the game and market comes via the new alternate reality game DUST.

In DUST, meteor showers pound the earth’s atmosphere, leaving the globe enveloped in a strange dust. Every adult falls asleep, leaving the players to determine the fate of the world, as well as their parents.

DUST combines social media like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, where players receive new installments of the story 2 to 3 times per week.

Players must also learn to work as a community during the seven weeks it takes to complete the game if they hope to save the world from impending doom.

The game is not something NASA just blindly launched. DUST was developed over the course of two years, by Brigham Young University in Utah, the University of Maryland, and Tinder Transmedia.

“Researchers on the project are studying how alternate reality games can serve as novel learning platforms that promote STEM learning and encourage teenagers to pursue STEM careers,” said BYU Professor and game team lead Derek Hansen.

NASA Langley in Virginia and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland also contributed to the game’s creation.

Dust
NASA’s new interactive alternate-reality game DUST wants students to learn how to collect and analyze data, while enhancing problem solving skills.

DUST is the first of two games being developed by the partnership, courtesy of a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning Program.

“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 approximately two years ago. “It’s up to the students to move the story along and do problem-solving using the scientific method and critical thinking skills.”

“It’s up to the students to move the story along and do problem-solving using the scientific method and critical thinking skills,”Cirillo explained.

The alternate-reality game was favorably beta-tested by students in Washington, D.C., who are studying physics, biology, information technology, advertising, film, graphic design, and illustration.

The pupils worked with DUST’s producers to add to the game’s design, art and programming to further connect with possible users.

Their engagement was integral to the agency’s push to broaden the game’s users’ understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

To check out the game, visit http://www.fallingdust.com


COLLEGEHIPHOP Writer
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