1109 Game Quality Immersive Simulations Driven by Student Models

Friday, February 19, 2010: 2:30 PM
Room 3 (San Diego Convention Center)
Frank Wattenberg , United States Military Academy, West Point, NY
Game Quality Immersive Simulations Driven by Student Models Education is all about building models – mental models that help us understand our world and eventually improve it. Building models is essentially an iterative and cyclic endeavor – starting with a rough model, examining its implications and testing it against reality, and then building a new and better model to start the cycle anew. Game quality, immersive simulations can be powerful tools for examining the implications of models. In addition to helping students and researchers understand their models, they can engage and motivate them and provide powerful feedback. This talk centers on a new project, DIYModeling (Do it Yourself Modeling), whose goal is to enable students to build models focusing their attention on the underlying mathematics and science without the distractions of programming or building the polygons and textures required for game quality three-dimensional simulations. At the click of a mouse button, students are then immersed in game quality, playable simulations driven by their own models. As they play their simulations they can collect data for analysis and for comparison against real world data. Students and other modelers using DIYModeling will describe models using the ordinary language of mathematics – constants, variables, functions, and differential equations. They can work at various levels of sophistication – for example, using only real variables or using vectors and matrices. They are encouraged to use units explicitly and if they do so their models are checked for dimensional consistency. This helps catch typographical errors and some logical errors. We think of this project as a high speed turnpike (but not one with limited access) and the first two paragraphs above focus on our ultimate goal – engaging students in building their own models. But we have easy access ramps. At the entrance, curriculum developers and instructors can use DIYModeling to design interactive simulations for student use and student “play” without requiring the students to do any modeling. Further along the ramp students can be required to modify existing models or to add missing pieces to existing models. However students use the simulations, the underlying models are always visible and our real goal is for them to build their own models.