Enhancing Education: Game developer helps bring lessons to life at HU

MELANIESTEGMAN

Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand,” Chinese proverb.

When it comes to education, lectures alone can’t match the lessons game simulations deliver in a classroom.

Relying on memorization, lectures generally only lead to surface learning. Educational simulation games drive students to interact with subject matter in a much more up-close, meaningful way.

“The biggest thing is that a game puts you in a context,” said Dr. Melanie Stegman, assistant professor and lead developer for HU’s Center for Advanced Entertainment and Learning Technologies. “A game will give you a situation and give you a goal. And you’re more motivated to achieve it, because the problem is more well defined, because it’s in the context of a game.”

Dr. Melanie Stegman

Stegman, who joined the University in August, boasts an impressive educational gaming resume, and she is working with professors and students to develop simulation games at HU.

For example, Stegman, who also owns her own simulation games company called Molecular Jig Games, is working with students and Chemistry Professors Dr. Richard Jackson and Dr. Andrea Nagy to develop a game that gives its players a closer look at molecular-based equilibrium. The simulation game will act as a tool for students to help them understand chemical reactions at the molecular level.

HU President Dr. Eric Darr recently awarded the project a Presidential Research Grant (PRG) – funding awarded annually to professors who partner with and engage students in ground-breaking research projects. And another project Stegman is helping steer, the development of a student life mobile app, also was named a recipient of a PRG.

Stegman also is helping the University’s coding club – the 001 Group – create a two-dimensional game simulation. And she is working with Professor Brian Grey develop a game for students who need coding practice in Python.

Another game Stegman developed before arriving to Harrisburg, dubbed “Immune Defense,” will be tested by a class at HU, and she is heavily involved with the Game Jam the University will host Nov. 9-10.

Stegman created the game Immune Defense while she was the director of the Learning Technologies Program at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C., a post she held from 2010-2014. The game, found at Molecularjig.com, is based on research she conducted on the game “Immune Attack.” Her research paper is available at MoledcularJig.com/research.

Immune Defense is a real time strategy game that was funded by a competitive grant from the National Institutes of Health,  Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH/NIAID). In this strategy simulation game pilot a nanobot in a body and command the cells of the immune system as they fight off invading bacteria. Players learn how cells interact with their environment while piloting the nanobot. Anyone can access Immune Defense and can pay what they see fit to play it.

Developing simulation games is a labor of love for Stegman.

She said she is excited to help enhance the learning experience at HU via simulation games.

“Most academic positions are academic, and not hands-on. Here, I’m not writing a paper about making games, I’m making games,” Stegman said. “I’m getting to make games that are cross-disciplined and getting to talk and work with scientists. I am very proud to be here and to be working with other fantastic faculty and students.”

About Harrisburg University

Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private non-profit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717.901.5146 or email connect@HarrisburgU.edu.

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