Primordial Soup at Albany High School

Categories:  Danielle Basore, Lessons and Activities, Photos, Science Club

On the last day of after school (May 7) for this year, I played a board game called Primordial Soup with the students.  I have brought this game periodically throughout the school year.  The goal is to acquire genes for your herd (pod? pack?) of amoebas to help them survive and thrive in the primordial ooze.  The genes give them abilities like fast movement, eating less food, living longer, and armor for protection from carnivorous amoebas.  However, these genes come at a cost.  The player must purchase genes with biological points (game currency) which are also used for spawning new amoebas and for movement and defense.  Also, because the game takes place on primordial Earth, there is a radiation level.  Should your amoebas have too many genes, they will become irradiated and lose some of them.  It is a complex game, but by playing it the students are learning biological concepts that will be useful later on.  They learn about radiation damage to DNA, the biological cost to being an advanced organism, and if they wish to succeed, they learn to develop a genetic strategy for survival.  I think they enjoyed playing very much, and I enjoyed watching each of them come up with a strategy over time.  One of them adopted my personal favorite plan: the insect amoeba.  This involves the genes “Spores” which allows amoebas to spawn in any square on the board, and “Division Rate” which makes spawning new amoebas less expensive.  They are not very sturdy, so they die easily, but it is cheap to respawn them in any location.  Another popular strategy was to acquire as many movement genes as possible so that amoebas can get to food and away from predators quickly.  Defensive genes were also in high demand, making amoebas impervious to attack.  I am glad that they enjoyed playing this game with me, it is one of my favorites and I think they learned a lot through the fun.

3helix Fellow Kathryn playing Primordial Soup with AHS students

3helix Fellow Kathryn playing Primordial Soup with AHS students

Albany High Students Visit RPI

Categories:  News and Events
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Albany High School students spent the day touring labs and seeing what life is like on the RPI campus last Friday. Students toured the Manufacturing Innovation Learning Laboratory, the Flow Control Research Lab and the Computational Protein Design Lab where 3Helix fellow Danielle Basore conducts her research. Students also toured EMPAC, ECAV, freshman housing and had lunch in the Commons Dining Hall.


Kathryn Bennett successfully defends her master’s thesis: Socially Conscious Software Development – A Case Study

Categories:  Kathryn Bennett, Socially Conscious Software Development

Congratulations go to Kathryn Bennett for successfully defending her Master’s thesis entitled “Socially Conscious Software Development – A Case Study”!

What does it mean for software to be socially conscious? How can developers make software that avoids negative social consequences? This thesis seeks to answer these questions. Technology does not usually grapple with social or cultural divisions. When social identity is part of the technology’s subject matter, additional care must be taken to developing content in a way that does not exclude any particular group of users. The Darwin game is one such case. Initial work by our NSF Triple Helix team suggested that underrepresented students resist learning about evolution due to the associations with racism. The game is a teaching tool that hopes to teach the concepts of the theory of evolution while also raising the question of Charles Darwin’s abolitionist ties, with the intentions of keeping underrepresented students from feeling excluded from science and challenging the misconception of Darwin as a racist scientist. We hypothesized that exposing these connections would make students more receptive to the lesson. This game is but one of many instances in which special considerations have been taken to make STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) material more inclusive. This thesis will discuss underrepresented groups in computing and software development, explore several of the existing approaches to teaching sensitive material, explain some of the issues encountered while building the Darwin game, and present some initial reactions from students.

Read the full thesis