DNA Rockstar

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DNA Rockstar is an educational flash game designed to teach young students about introductory genetics.  GK-12 fellow, David Banks together with Studio V students, are currently developing this education technology using participatory design with the ARK Community School and Doyle Middle School both in Troy and Hackett Middle School in Albany. There are two game modes; one is essentially a story mode that goes through different levels of varying difficulty to teach concepts on DNA replication and basic evolutionary paths, and the second is a challenge mode which challenges players to get high scores while teaching about protein synthesis. It uses Adobe Flash Player in conjunction with a USB “Guitar Hero” guitar to create a fun user experience for all ages. We intend for this product to be used in schools from 5th grade up though 9th grade primarily in the biology classroom setting.

For more information on this project, visit the DNA Rockstar website.
Read more about the participatory design of DNA Rockstar and other CSDTs

David Banks’ poster abstract featuring the ‘DNA Rockstar’ software project was selected as one of 30 winning abstracts on display at National Science Foundation headquarters in Arlington, VA. The poster presentation took place on Friday, March 11 as part of the GK-12 Annual Meeting. For David Banks’ reflections on the NSF GK-12 conference, visit his blog.

HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in Ghana

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During the summer of 2010, Co-PI Audrey Bennett worked with a small group of students from KNUST to explore their understanding of AIDS prevention as well as successful local campaigns. Their participatory design session resulted in a poster titled “Show AIDS the red card” that reflects the World Cup soccer competition that was taking place at the same time as her workshop. To read about the poster, go to: http://www.rpi.edu/research/magazine/fall10/eglash-2.html. This year, she designed preliminary prototypes of the red card (see http://baohouse.org/redcard) that includes a novel text messaging service developed by Triple Helix Fellow David Banks. Read more about the technical development of the cellphone service for HIV/AIDS prevention in Ghana via John Licato’s blog. John Licato is a computer science student hired to do the technical research and programming of the cellphone service.

During the summer of 2011, Co-PI Audrey Bennett and grad fellow, David Banks went back to KNUST in Kumasi to explore the topic of AIDS prevention specifically condom acceptance and attitudes. They looked at ways to use the cultural meanings behind Adinkra Symbols in HIV/AIDs literature.

DNA Rockstar!

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Science: genetics, biology, life sciences

Students will learn the base pairs of DNA, the processes of replication, translation, and synthesis. Students will also learn the relationship of nucleotides to DNA codes.

Grade level:
Middle, High School

Materials Needed:
Computer with updated browser running flash
Included key mapper (if using guitar controller)
xBox 360
wired USB guitar controller (optional, but recommended)

Approximate amount of time needed to conduct lesson:
25 minutes

Students play a browser-based flash game similar to popular games like Guitar Hero and Rockband. Students “play” a DNA strand as an animated illustration of replication, translation, or synthesis occurs. Students are given a static image with the name of the molecule and a short description of what it does in the process.

Uses a familiar technology to teach a new concept

Key mapper is difficult to install on locked-down school computers

Note: DNA Rockstar! is not recommended for students’ first exposure to genetics.