Wisconsin teachers and librarians to help create astrophysics learning game

Computer game will use latest research to take learners to the furthest reaches of space

February 5, 2024   |   By WCER Communications

UW–Madison's WIPAC seeks to detect and unravel the mysteries of tiny particles from across the universe.

UW–Madison's WIPAC seeks to detect and unravel the mysteries of tiny particles from across the universe.

On Friday, Feb. 9, a small group of select librarians and teachers from across the state will gather with game designers and scientists for a day-long workshop in Madison to develop a new educational computer game that will take learners to the furthest reaches of space.

The game development project is a collaboration of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the Field Day Learning Games Lab in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW–Madison, and the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC). This new game will be based on current WIPAC research.

The scientists of WIPAC seek to detect and unravel the mysteries of tiny particles from across the universe—neutrinos, cosmic rays, and gamma rays—as well as dark matter. Teachers and librarians who applied for the fellowship did not need to have a background in science or computer programming to be chosen—just a desire to learn and an interest in using games as part of their curriculum or programming.

During the workshop, the fellows will learn about astro-particle physics, play example educational video games, and brainstorm concepts for the new game. They also will visit the Washburn Observatory and the astronomy department at UW–Madison to learn more about the significant role that campus researchers have, and continue to play, in the field of astronomy.

Friday's workshop is just the start of the fellowship program, though. The teacher and librarian fellows will also test the game once it’s created and help develop activities and materials that other educators can use with the game. The final product will be available to play for free, distributed by Brain POP Inc., and PBS LearningMedia. 

Field Day’s Teacher Fellowship program has resulted in the design of many successful games in the past. In 2019, it led to the creation of Jo Wilder and the Capitol Case, an award-winning historical inquiry game that was played nearly 100,000 times nationally in its first year. You can learn more about Jo Wilder and other games created through the Fellowship program on Field Day’s website.

“The purpose of the Teacher Fellowship program is to create high-quality, public-media education materials that challenge kids to go beyond memorizing facts and figures and learn through experience,” says David Gagnon, founder and director of Field Day. “We are continually excited to be part of work that demonstrates the quality of our innovative teachers and the creative coordination of state agencies for the good of kids in Wisconsin and beyond.”