Skills and Ideas Taught: Ideas: synthetic biology (building things with biological components), basic DNA biochemistry, DNA strand displacement reactions, computer logic + logic gates
Skills: creative and collaborative problem solving, spatial reasoning, thinking ahead
Goal or Challenge: The game features a series of increasingly difficult levels, designed with careful scaffolding of mechanics that lead players to gradually learn how pieces of DNA interact and how they can use these interactions to build complex devices. There are also challenge problems released every other week, which are more open-ended and focused on creativity. The ultimate goal of the game is to help users become experts in the field, with their challenge solutions providing new avenues of research to scientists.
Primary Audience: Recommended for high school and above, with the game already in use as a teaching tool at the university level. Ultimately, anyone with a computer, internet connection and interest in getting involved and contributing to science can play.
Assessment Approach: Analyzing play statistics, specifically how far players progress and the frequency of making correct versus incorrect moves, along with analyzing challenge solutions and peer review trends to determine how well players understand the involved concepts.
Description: Nanocrafter is a synthetic biology game created to educate and entertain players while advancing science. As players progress through the game, they learn how to utilize DNA strand displacement reactions to construct a variety of mechanisms that will assist them in solving the increasingly complex puzzles. The game also features open-ended challenge levels, where players can use what they have learned from the game and apply their creativity to build to draw pictures, create imaginative new devices, and eventually see their inventions recreated in the lab. Thousands of players have already played and submitted hundreds of solutions to challenges.
Game Engine: Flash (web browser)
Operating System: Web
Platform: Personal Computer
Special Hardware: None