Queen’s Science Rendezvous virtual platform expands to include local youth-developed game app

Posted on July 23, 2021


Science Rendezvous Kingston, the annual STEM-oriented youth outreach event which was reconceived due to COVID restrictions as a 16-day virtual event this year, will remain online for the next year and, in addition, organizers announce the release of a new educational game app.

The popularity of the event was evident. In five days, attendance at live talks by Queen’s researchers, graduate students, and special guests averaged 29,000 virtual attendees. In response, organizers have elected to keep the virtual conference space available for the next year, and are adding to it The STEMygk Exploratorium. The app aims to keep STEM momentum growing in a fun way as students and their families embrace summertime.

The Exploratorium is comprised of two imaginary, interactive environments: Connections City and Space Base. Connections City is a futuristic city that is explored by hopping on and off a roller coaster. Leondardo Da Vinci himself will host a tour with video presentations and mini-game challenges about engineers and the amazing work that they do. On Space Base, players join a physics team based on the moon. Guided by astrophysicist Simran, players learn about physics and astronomy, collect fun space facts, meet Zero Gee a “punny” alien friend who loves to tell science jokes and apply their knowledge in fun tasks.

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Exploratorium logo

 

One of the principal goals of Science Rendezvous Kingston is to mentor and support and encourage youth to pursue interests and develop expertise in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and coordinators Dr. Lynda Colgan and Kim Garrett have been working with a small team of developers since September 2020 bring The Exploratorium to light in support of that goal.

The key members of that team are two 16-year-old Sydenham High School students, Ben Black and Kye Hallam. In addition to their Grade 11 classes, Ben and Kye have devoted innumerable hours developing this game for Science Rendezvous Kingston. The teens were both enrolled in the Computer Coding Focus Program offered by Limestone District School Board and supplemented the coursework with self-directed online learning for the first half of the school year.

In consultation and collaboration with Queen’s Engineering youth Outreach Manager Scott Compeau and Outreach Coordinator Carmen Maerz, and a team of faculty and graduate students from the Physics and Astronomy Department led by Assistant Professor (Particle Physics) Alex Wright and MSc student Simran Nirval, Ben and Kye incorporated key concepts into the app content and challenges, based on an original game vision suggested by Dr. Lynda Colgan and Kim Garrett.

The full development team, including graphic designer and educational developer Cheryl Hallam (who is also Kye’s mother) and graphic designer Haley Sherman met weekly from September to May, working together to share progress and celebrate milestones, reaching out for guidance and expert input as needed.

Ben Black and Kye Hallam have started a company called Ericthonius Games. The Exploratorium is their first release, and there are expansion plans to include other virtual environments focusing on Chemistry, Paleontology, the Environment, and Arctic & Antarctic research and exploration.

The Exploratorium is available free through the Apple App Store and Google Play app store by searching for “STEM YGK Exploratorium.”

Screenshots from the app:

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