If the United States wants to remain a leader in health sciences, it needs to interest young people from diverse backgrounds in the field. With that in mind, a team of researchers – supported by a $1.3 million grant from NIH – is developing an online adventure game designed to inspire future generations to pursue health-related careers.
“We have more than a decade of experience in designing and developing educational games – and have a lot of data demonstrating their effectiveness,” says James Lester, principal investigator (PI) on the grant and Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at NC State University.
“Our new game, called Health Quest, will be aimed at middle school students,” Lester says. “We want students from all backgrounds to know more about health-related careers – from clinical medicine and public health to molecular biology and pharmacology. And by working this educational content into an ongoing adventure, we can raise awareness in diverse audiences, help teachers achieve their educational goals, and get students engaged by keeping them entertained and motivated.”
“But whereas Crystal Island focused on microbiology and literacy, Health Quest will look at broader areas specific to health sciences, and relevant careers will be incorporated into the plot and gameplay,” Lester says.
The project involves experts in K-12 education, game development, health sciences and public outreach programs.
“In addition to NC State, we’re collaborating closely with researchers and the Office of Diversity and Outreach at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as engaging others from Stanford, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and community based afterschool programs,” Lester says. The co-PI of the project is Elizabeth Ozer, professor of pediatrics and director of research in UCSF’s Office of Diversity and Outreach.
The five-year, $1.3 million grant comes from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program, which invests in educational activities that complement or enhance workforce training in the areas of biomedical, behavioral and clinical research.