UT professor makes game to teach space science

Gefei Liu

“Alien Rescue,” a game set in a science-fiction world designed by a UT professor for sixth graders, is working to educate students on space science. 

“Alien Rescue” is created by Min Liu, a professor in College of Education with support from the McDonald Observatory. According to Prof. Liu, “Alien Rescue” is an immersive multimedia-enhanced problem-based learning (PBL) environment for space science. It is designed for sixth graders to learn science by providing educational video games.

Liu said “Alien Rescue” serves a part of the science curriculum and may play a crucial role in sixth graders' science performance.

“Numerous research studies […] have shown sixth graders’ science knowledge scores increased after using it and they are highly motivated in using it,” Liu said 

Mary Kay Hemenway, a researcher at McDonald Observatory, said the goal of “Alien Rescue” is to help students learn basic science in many areas.

“Science affects their lives in so many ways, and as citizens, they will be asked to make decisions based on logic, reason and their scientific knowledge,” Hemenway said. “Science can be an awarding subject just for its own sake.”

Graduate students in the College of Education’s Learning Technology program are also using “Alien Rescue” for research.

Lucas Horton, a doctoral student working for the center, said through this project, students explore theories related to teaching and learning.

“It allows students to get a first-hand view of how instructional innovations can be designed and used, […] and understand how to best design learning environments,” Horton said. “It allows us to explore the relationship between theory and practice in ways that are very tangible.”

Horton said the work on “Alien Rescue” encourages people to use it.

“I expect that Alien Rescue will continue to be a useful tool for teaching space science. At the same time, we will continue to learn from our experiences in sixth grade classrooms to refine and expand the program to make it an even more robust and useful tool for learning,” he said.

Follow Gefei Liu on Twitter @gefeiliu.