Monday, March 7, 2011

Introducing Gram's House, Our Imagine Cup 2011 Game for Girls and Computer Science

Computer science is still a gender-imbalanced field. Outreach efforts by various non-profits and companies like Microsoft seem to make an impact on this issue. Inspired by this, we designed Gram’s House to reach an even larger audience of middle school girls. We believe that encouraging more girls to participate in computer science has the power to help those who are lesser privileged see new career possibilities and improve their situation. Furthermore, a diverse computing community will be in a better position to solve many of tomorrow’s problems, from education to the environment to health care.

In Gram’s House, the player takes on the role of a computer scientist. She wants to ensure her grandmother can stay in her house, so she uses her skills to outfit the place with technology Gram can use to remain independent. Each piece of technology must be activated by solving a computer science related puzzle, ranging from binary numbers to theorems to algorithm design. The first technology is a mail ordered robot, and subsequent technologies are obtained through a simple questing mechanisms. In the next version, a world map will allow players to travel to different areas of the city, and will provide opportunities for collaboration with other computer scientists and engineers. The player must balance Gram’s independence with her satisfaction with the various machines and devices collected.

The story of Gram’s House is meant to give the girls playing it an emotional investment in the problems they are trying to solve. Research has shown that girls do indeed care about making a social difference.

While point and click puzzlers are nothing new, they are well loved by middle school girls. The combination of a compelling story, puzzles, and learning real computer science topics is something new and exciting that could make a big impact on the game world and the field of computer science.

Watch the game video below and download an installer to try the game yourself.  I'd love to get your feedback!


Valentina said...

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first, but I loved it so it's a double win for you! And you surely appealed to my curiosity with the 4 colors theorem, so I guess that the trick will work with younger girls too! Nice job!

Gail Carmichael said...

It's definitely the kind of thing that needs a demo. Even my teammates said it turned out a lot better than they thought it would. ;)

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