SBIR Phase II: Scalable Game Design: Broadening Computer Science Participation with Low-Threshold, High-Ceiling Design Environments

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 0848962
Agency Tracking Number: 0712571
Amount: $465,612.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2009
Solicitation Year: N/A
Solicitation Topic Code: IT
Solicitation Number: NSF 06-598
Small Business Information
DUNS: 113731017
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Alexander Repenning
 (303) 530-1773
Business Contact
 Alexander Repenning
Title: PhD
Phone: (303) 530-1773
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will build a Scalable Game Design tool and curriculum, with the goal of increasing the participation of students in Computer Science (CS). K-12 computer education fails to attract the necessary number of students to CS - especially at the middle school level, where students make critical career decisions by judging their own aptitudes towards math and science. This is a serious problem because, despite the growing need for IT workers, enrollment in undergraduate CS programs is dropping at alarming rates. Scalable Game Design provides an ideal balance between motivational and academic concerns of CS. This approach is based on the existing Fluency with Information Technology framework recommended by the National Academies of Sciences and will be aligned with the emerging National IT education standards (ISTE NETS). This project will explore Scalable Game Design by building a low-threshold, high-ceiling design tool, called AgentCubes, featuring Incremental 3D modeling, animation, programming, and visualization. The project will incorporate the tool into a 3D Gamelet Design curriculum to provide an attractive route to the effective design, development, and deployment of an exceptionally large spectrum of games - ranging from simple 2D Frogger-like games to 3D Sims-type games. The proposed technology has a high potential to increase the number of K-12 students interested in Computer Science (CS), which in turn should result in larger enrollments at the university level. Without stronger CS enrollments the US cannot maintain an internationally competitive IT workforce. A less programming-focused, more design-based IT curriculum is likely to increase the participation of women and minorities. Initial results from our feasibility study indicate that Incremental 3D approaches work across ethnicity and gender. The proposed 3-stage classroom integration strategy is based on a pipeline of required, elective, and transitional modules that introduce students to making simple games, move to more advanced games and computational science applications, and transition to traditional programming models. This strategy maximizes the exposure of public schools students in general, and women and minorities in particular, to computer science because all students will at least take the required one-week module. Furthermore, as a general end-user tool to create interactive 3D applications, the proposed technology will be useful beyond educational game design. Potential applications include computational science simulations, computational thinking tools and serious games with potential users such as university students, scientists, and engineers.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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