As part of it's TryScience initiative and in conjunction with Engineer's Week 2008, IBM has launched a free multiplayer online game called PowerUp. The game challenges players to help save the planet "Helios" from ecological disaster, and can be played alone or together. It features a planet in near ecological ruin where three exciting missions for solar, wind, and water power must be solved before sandstorms, floods, or SmogGobs thwart the rescue. A video explaining the details of the game is available on www.ddj.com.
IBM devised the 3D virtual game to engage kids and educators in engineering, energy, and diversity awareness. PowerUp aims to use kids' interest in fantasy virtual worlds to encourage them to learn about engineering. They will also learn about energy conservation by the choices they make in completing their missions. The game also features nonplayer characters that represent a diverse cross section of the population, to be role models to encourage every young person to consider a career in engineering and they act as guides for the game.
"Innovation is the key to competitiveness in today's globally integrated economy, but just when we need it to skyrocket, interest in math and science has been declining in the United States," said Stanley S. Litow, VP of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and President of IBM International Foundation. "American competitiveness demands more interest in math and science by students. Virtual worlds and 3D are an unexplored resource in education. We asked our best researchers to incorporate the use of this technology into traditional educational curriculum."
Along with the game, there will be classroom lesson plans associated with the energy transformation topics and an interactive module where kids can learn about 3D technologies to build virtual worlds. To ensure a safe environment, "avatars" will use phrase-based chats to interact in missions.
An IBM team developed the game in about 16 months. Nearly 200 teens in the Connecticut Innovation Academy served as advisors to IBM researchers during the development cycle. The TryScience team from the New York Hall of Science worked with The Tech Museum in San Jose, California, and the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on the activities and game content.
Engineer's Week is a coalition of corporations, professional organizations, and government partners to help create interest in the engineering profession with students. IBM is cosponsor of Engineer's Week 2008, which runs until February 23, but events are held throughout the year.