Recently in March 2019 an educational game called CosmiClean was released by one of the ETN-CHARMING beneficiaries LuGus Studios in collaboration with other CHARMING beneficiaries and partners: KU Leuven, University of Newcastle, Arkema and BASF. It is a part of the GAMES project funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) RawMaterials under the H2020 framework. The intention of the game is to increase the awareness of the importance of recycling and the separation steps that precede it. It is both fun and accessible for the recycling enthousiast and for players who do not have a chemical background. Also the younger generation is reached with the ambition to attract them to STEM educations. To add on that, this game has also been awarded with the Comenius EduMedia Siegel, a seal by the German Association for Education and Information for educational media that delivers exceptional educational value, content and design. As an avid materials chemist and because this game is parallel to the philosophy of the CHARMING project, I had to try it out!
The game is set in a futuristic scene and starts with a hard working astronaut named Bob. His day to day job is to transport intergalactic trash with a grand spaceship; it is not much, but it is work that has to be done. Until one day he accidentally crashed the ship into a free roaming asteroid. In order to get back home, he needs to 3D-print replacement parts to fix his ship. But where does he get the necessary material from? By recycling the garbage cargo.
It is a fun puzzle game where you need to separate trash blocks into their primary materials by constructing a series of separation machines, such as melters, magnets, centrifuges, etc. Each level has a unique combination of materials which gets more challenging to separate the further you progress. Different separating machines must be put in sequence with each a different setting depending on the material type. Eventually when you complete all levels, you will get a fun ending!
Even though you need to separate materials using their individual properties, it is definitely playable for players who do not have this chemical knowledge beforehand. The necessary material properties (e.g. melting point, density, ferrous percentage) are nicely presented in the sidebar. Plus, with every new type of separation machine there is an introductory level where only one machine is needed so that you get the idea of how to use it. Every level can also be solved in multiple ways and the time is not a limiting factor. In this way the difficulty is certainly manageable for youngsters; it’s not an expert Sudoku puzzle.
Now the question is: can this really educate children and motivate them to choose STEM education? In my opinion, it surely is possible! The game is fun and is a nice way to exercise their developing grey matter. The player learns the very basic of real life sustainable recycling and material properties in an interactive way. Also the repetitive use of the material properties helps the player to memorize them more easily. This game not only enhances chemical knowledge, but can also benefit other STEM disciplines. Placing the machines in sequence encourages the mind to solve a problem step by step using given functions; think of operators in programming and mathematical equations. After all, you won’t notice that you are learning, as you are so focused on completing the level.
I had much fun playing this and I recommend to try it out yourself! CosmiClean is free and can be downloaded by following this link: recyclegame.eu