GENIE tackles extraterrestrials

Posted by pt91 at Sep 02, 2011 04:39 PM |
The GENIE CETL and the Department of Physics and Astronomy teamed up during August this summer for the annual Senior Space School UK event.
GENIE tackles extraterrestrials

War of the Worlds in action.

In a three-hour Genetics workshop the students attending this popular Summer School were taken on a genetic journey from ‘Observing Life on Earth’ (extracting DNA from bananas) and ‘Considering Extraterrestrial Life’ (GENIE’s War of the Worlds) to ‘Detecting Alien Life’ (DNA amplification and DNA analysis) and ‘Alien Life Evolving in Space’ (GENIE’s Mutation Game).

The Mutation Game is an educational game created by Dr Cas Kramer, from GENIE, the Centre for Excellence in teaching and Learning in Genetics, in 2010 with collaborators from two other science outreach centres, CALMAST in Ireland and CELS in Nottingham.

The Mutation Game

The game is set on an alien planet and shows ‘evolution in action’ in a short period of time. The game has been used successfully as an educational tool in schools and colleges throughout Europe and is also introduced into the undergraduate curriculum at the University of Leicester and at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands. GENIE’s Mutation Game won an International Award for Science Communication in December 2010.

GENIE’s War of the Worlds is a new game, situated on Mars and Venus, which was specifically created for this year’s Space School UK. This educational game was developed by Genetics PhD student Barbara Ottolini and GENIE Teaching Fellow Dr Cas Kramer.

At the beginning of the game players will first have to choose five traits (“genes”) that would be beneficial for the survival of their imaginary species under the extreme circumstances on either Venus or Mars.  The five traits are selected from a stack of 17 extreme traits, like ‘survival under extreme pressure’ or ‘survival at very high temperatures’; all known traits of extremophiles on Earth, like hot-spring bacteria.

In the next stage of the game players will find out whether their imaginary species is thriving or not through ‘battles for survival’ between the species, where luck is decided by throwing 20-sided dice! Finally, players will discover that their chosen genes may not be so good when one is trying to invade another planet... survival under different environmental circumstances may in fact be quite tricky!

If you would like more information about GENIE’s educational games please contact the GENIE Outreach and Public Engagement Coordinator Dr Cas Kramer (