BACTOMARS

Creative Engagement with Bio-Design for Children

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Project Brief

BacToMars is the result of an NSF-funded project from the Human-Computer Lab at Wellesley College, in collaboration with the Developmental Technology Research Group at Tufts University.

BacToMars is a computer game based off of BacPack for New Frontiers, a large multi-touch museum exhibit. In the game, players help a team of astronauts survive on and escape from Mars by bioengineering bacteria that can use resources on Mars (e.g. soil, poop, carbon dioxide) to create essential products (e.g. water, oxygen, biomatter). The game features scaffolding to assist players in learning the interface and the game mechanics, and can be played as single-player or multi-player.

Curricular elements were developed to further enhance learning, including short educational videos and minigames.

BacToMars went through multiple rounds of testing with children, and has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and presented at conferences.

Play the game and view the curricular supplements here.

Co-PIs : Orit Shaer, Wellesley College; Marina Umashi-Bers, Tufts University

Collaborators: Dr. Anna Loparev, Dr. Amanda Sullivan, Dr. Amanda Strawhacker, Lauren Westendorf, Christina Pollalis

Generously funded by NSF grant #IIS-1563932

I would like to acknowledge the excellent work from student researchers at the Wellesley HCI Lab and Tufts DevTech Research Group, who participated in the testing, video game development, and artwork for BacToMars.

Demo Video

Conferences

Presentation

“BacToMars: A Collaborative Video Game for BioDesign”, July 2019, Proceedings of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL ’19), Lyon, France.

Poster Sessions

”BacToMars: a Collaborative Educational Video Game for Teaching Biological Engineering.” Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games, August 2017, Cape Cod, MA.

“BacToMars: Creative Engagement With Bio-Design for Children.” Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children, June 2017, Stanford, CA.

Publications

Verish, C., Strawhacker, A., Westendorf, L., Pollalis, C., Sullivan, A., Loparev, A., ... & Shaer, O. (2019). BacToMars: A Collaborative Video Game for BioDesign. In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (pp. 652-655).

Strawhacker, A., Bers, M., Verish, C., Sullivan, A., & Shaer, O. (2018). Enhancing children’s interest and knowledge in bioengineering through an interactive videogame. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 17(1), 55-81.

Loparev, A., Sullivan, A., Verish, C., Westendorf, L., Davis, J., Flemings, M., ... & Shaer, O. (2017, August). BacToMars: a collaborative educational video game for teaching biological engineering. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (pp. 1-3).

Loparev, A., Sullivan, A., Verish, C., Westendorf, L., Davis, J., Flemings, M., ... & Shaer, O. (2017, June). BacToMars: Creative engagement with bio-design for children. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 623-628).