Sep 18 2017

College Students Get Virtual Look at the Real World with 'Minecraft'

Carnegie Mellon University uses the game-based learning tool to help students demonstrate engineering skills.

For K–12 schools, the open-world video game “Minecraft” has been embraced as a popular tool to teach concepts like geometry and elaborate on themes of literature. But, while this game-based learning tool is great for engaging the youngest learners, college students can also benefit from “Minecraft.”

At Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, B. Reeja Jayan, a mechanical engineering professor, was the first to fully integrate “Minecraft” within an engineering course at the university level, Campus Technology reports.

Jayan and others have shown that the tool can help college students visualize complex topics and represent what they have learned in a visual way.

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‘Minecraft’ Helps Students Visualize Complex Ideas

Jayan’s mechanical engineering students find “Minecraft” to be a helpful tool to make sense of the kinds of structures they might build in the real world.

“I was trying to use this culture of building to help students visualize ideas and think about what it was that they were building and how they would do it in a real-world scenario,” says Jayan in the article. “This course teaches students how materials have specific internal arrangements of atoms and how processing techniques can change this structure and lead to differences in properties like mechanical behavior and strength.”

Thanks to Code Builder, a new tool in “Minecraft: Education Edition,” students can also use the game to learn to code using easy drag-and-drop languages like Scratch and Tynker.

Microsoft has also added a tool called MakeCode that allows students to transition from drag-and-drop to more difficult languages.

“Once students have mastered drag-and-drop, block-based program construction, they can move into a full-featured JavaScript editor with code snippets, tooltips and error detection to help them,” reads a blog post announcing the tool.

As a means of enticing more students into computer programming, many universities are reshaping introductory courses to make computer science more accessible. The Code Builder tool in “Minecraft” might be a tool universities could use to do this.

The World Building Game Lets Students Demonstrate Skills

As the tool helps students to visualize concepts, Jayan enlisted the game for her class’s final projects. Using “Minecraft,” students illustrated materials science principals in an interactive way.

“I loved the ability to walk around a model of a crystal structure and visualize content in three dimensions,” says mechanical engineering student Genevieve Parker in the article.

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