August 14, 2012
A Coaster That’s STEMing the Tide
By Amy Maclean
Cable in the Classroom's "Coaster Crafter" game
As kids across the country head back to school, cable will be there. More specifically, Cable in the Classroom’s latest game, “Coaster Crafter,
” will be there. Designed to illustrate broadband learning potential and teach STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts, it marks the 4th
free, online game from the cable industry’s national education foundation.
CIC’s first game
, which explores the development of Shakespearean texts, still gets plenty of use, with CIC exec dir Frank Gallagher telling us that a teacher in Greece uses it every spring semester. Another CIC classic, “eLECTIONS
,” received an update this year as the country prepares for upcoming presidential election. “Coaster Crafter” builds on the cable industry’s increased emphasis on STEM initiatives.
“There is a lot of concern about the small number of STEM graduates—concern on Capitol Hill, concern in education circles… And it seemed like an area where the technology and the content that our industry creates could help to get kids more interested in and excited about those kinds of careers,” says Gallagher. Other STEM cable efforts include Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds initiative
and Discovery’s commercial-free kids block
on Science Channel.
In developing the project, CIC worked with industry partners and educational organizations before contracting a gaming developer and education consultant. “We started with the education first, and then the game came second,” says Gallagher.
It’s a pretty cute game that takes place at “Bruno’s World” amusement park, with a few funny one liners, such as “You know he’s only calling you an intern because he won’t pay you, right?” It’s aimed at middle and high school students, particularly girls. The wiz of the game is Brunette, Bruno’s smart, underappreciated daughter. Players learn about inertia, velocity, mass and more as they design coasters that they later get to virtually ride.
Right now the game is being publicized through educational channels such as the American Assoc of School Librarians and Science Teachers Assoc, as well as through CIC ad buys in e-newsletters that target science and math teachers. The organization also will hold a free Webinar on Aug 29 that looks at incorporating Coaster Crafter into curriculum. “The games have been one of two most used areas of our Website. We get usage from all over the world,” says Gallagher. In the next few months, CIC will host a Facebook contest for teachers to submit ideas on how they’ve used the game in their class, with the entries with the most votes getting prizes.
While STEM is certainly a hot topic (President Obama has challenged the business community to think of new ways to engage young people in science and engineering), CIC is getting ready to tackle another issue getting a lot of interest from Washington, D.C., and beyond. “It looks like we’re going to be diving deeper into digital citizenship—the idea of combining Internet safety and security with digital literacy and digital ethics in a total package so that kids don’t get just one lesson about safety and another lesson about sexting and another lesson down the road about something else,” says CIC’s exec dir. “We’re trying to make it a more holistic and positive approach where kids learn what to do instead of just telling them what not to do.” Stay tuned.