New research has been published that investigates the use of Minecraft to teach college students in the US about materials science. The interdisciplinary research team (which included a materials scientist, two chemists, and a games design expert) developed a ‘mod’ for Minecraft, a game about placing blocks and going on adventures in which the default protagonist is a character called Steve. The ‘Polycraft World’ mod enables players to use material science and chemistry to complete specific in-game activities. These activities range from the harvesting and processing of natural rubber to make pogo sticks, to the conversion of crude oil into a jetpack via chemical synthesis and distillation techniques. The students are also provided with instructions on how to complete these activities and the underlying theory behind them via an accompanying Wiki.
Sam Illingworth, one of the members of this Network wrote the following poem to summarise this research:
By building a new Minecraft mod,
Researchers found a way to turn
A world that was both fun and odd
Into a place where Steve could learn.
Replacing wood with elements
And buildings with experiments.
A learning tool that rewards skills,
That people want to play for thrills!