Gaming effort to get girls into science

UC, San Diego Supercomputer Center will create online science challenge for middle school girls in effort to keep them interested in science by making it more relevant.

The University of California San Diego (UCSD) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center have joined forces to launch a new program targeting middle-school girls to get them interested in science education, reports Photonics.com

The new partnership will focus on helping San Diego County students monitor the air quality, solar radiation and other environmental factors to create a multiplayer online science challenge game designed specifically for middle school girls.

"Despite the fact that information technology touches every aspect of our lives, women remain a minority in engineering enrollment at US universities and in technology careers," said Jeanne Ferrante, associate dean of the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering and principal investigator of the project.

"There is a critical leak in the talent pipeline, when girls lose their enthusiasm for math and science in the vulnerable years between sixth and ninth grade. We know that one of the best ways to keep girls engaged is to show them how engineering and computing connects with issues in their own lives."

The project is funded by a three-year, $1.2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant as part of its Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) award program.

The data collected will be analyzed at the San Diego Supercomputer Center which will host a website where students and teachers to interact with and analyze the scientific data.

"We know girls like games that involve adventure and mystery and where they can take on the persona of the lead character," said Diane Baxter, education director with the San Diego Supercomputer Center, who will oversee development of the game. "Girls are also more likely to play games in a community, rather than on their own."

Researchers expect a first prototype of the new game to be available by spring 2008.

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