If you’d like the chance to win funding for your own public engagement work, apply for the next I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here: imascientist.org.uk/scientist-apply
For as long as I can remember, I have been frustrated that learning science still largely involves memorising dry words and static pictures. My dearest wish, as a student, was for there to be a fun, interactive way for me to assign meaning to the jargon, and see how individual concepts related to one another. So I didn’t hesitate to propose writing a science education computer game when I participated in I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here!
The game would be called Cellverse – the player would explore a vast abandoned laboratory complex, picking up crates containing various biological components, and then using mysterious research equipment to piece them together and discover their functions. Using simple game mechanics and mini-puzzles, I would convey first the field of science I am personally involved in – immunology – and then expand into other areas of biology.
It was always going to be an uphill task – I knew next to nothing about programming when I started the project, but I was excited to learn a new skill and use it to teach what I knew at the same time. I spent many hours debugging every keystroke, generating each floor map, making sure my little character didn’t run straight through walls.
Alas, through a period of upheaval from finishing my PhD to moving across the world for a new job, I lost track of the progress of the project. Over time, I’ve learned that the need for interactive modes of learning is never outgrown, even at the very highest levels of science! I also realised that learning to programme is like unlocking a fresh angle in your brain, a new curiosity and understanding of the invisible things happening behind the scenes – which is an extremely useful perspective to have while studying the ways of the world. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to come back to this project wiser and better-equipped – fingers crossed!
In total, I spent £85 on a Wacom drawing tablet, £20 on programming software, £60 on an external hard drive and £30 on books on digital art and programming. I will be donating the rest of the prize money, approximately £300, to Code Club, as it relates closely to what I was trying to achieve (and will hopefully enable students to write their own video games!)