Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

International S&E Visualization Challenge: Vote Before Friday

October 26th, 2011 / in Research News / by Erwin Gianchandani

International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge [image courtesy NSF].Back in February, we noted that the National Science Foundation and Science were partnering to run another International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge to celebrate the grand tradition of visualization — specifically for communicating science, engineering, and technology for education and journalistic purposes. Well, now the submissions are being put to a public vote — with winners to be published in Science and on Science Online.

International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge [image courtesy NSF].

Among this year’s entries are a number of interactive video games that are advancing science and engineering (after the jump):

FoldIt by Seth Cooper


Foldit is a game designed to tackle the problem of protein folding. Proteins are small “machines” within our bodies that handle practically all functions of living organisms. By knowing more about the 3D structure of proteins (or how they “fold”), we can better understand their function, and we can also get a better idea of how to combat diseases, create vaccines, and even find novel biofuels. In Foldit, players are presented with a model of a protein, which they can fold by using a variety of provided tools. The game evaluates how good of a fold the player has made, and gives them a score. Scores are uploaded to a leaderboard, allowing for competition between players from all around the world. Foldit results have been published in Nature, marking the first time the leading scientific journal has published a paper with over 57,000 authors. More generally, Foldit showed that it is possible to effectively “crowdsource” human problem solving to solve very hard scientific problems.


Velu the welder by Muralitharan Vengadasalam


Welding is a method used for binding metal or nonmetal structures. In this game an apprentice by name Velu gets basic training in the art of welding. The game is designed to expose one to basic skill sets aimed at getting acquainted with the craft of welding. Developed as a technology demonstrator for the National Skills Development of India, this game will be used to train millions of apprentices in a cost effective way. The objective of the game is to introduce the apprentice to two types of welding — gas and arc, and is designed to have five tasks. In the first two tasks he learns hand coordination and movement using gas welding. In the remaining sets he is exposed to arc welding to join four pieces of metals to build the frame. The game is best played using a Nintendo Wii Remote which mimics the actual welding gun. For competition purposes we appropriated it for the mouse.


Powers of Minus Ten by Laura Lynn Gonzales


Powers of Minus Ten (POMT) was originally conceived as an iPad app that would allow the user to zoom into the human body, exploring worlds at different levels of magnification (e.g. tissue, cellular, molecular, subatomic). In this version of POMT, the user is able to zoom into the human hand down to the molecular level. Three cell types and a variety of other structures can be viewed and explored. Users can also investigate structures in the “Lab” area of the app, and review what they have discovered via timed mini-games. The app covers basic topics in biology such as the Phases of Mitosis and DNA Replication. POMT is available for iPads, iPhones, PCs, Macs, and as a web-based game. Future versions of POMT will allow the user to explore different subjects such as plants, minerals, water droplets, etc, as well as explore ‘deeper’ at the atomic and subatomic levels of magnification.


Build-a-Body by Jeremy Friedberg


Put on your surgical gloves and get ready for the operating room! Well maybe not yet, but you can learn about the organs and organ systems of the human body with this drag and drop game. Choose organs from the organ tray and place them in their correct position within the body to create organ systems. Put on your surgical thinking cap and test your anatomy knowledge with our skill-testing case studies. Get to know human anatomy with Build-a-Body and keep your surgical gown clean. It’s not the OR, so have fun!


Flood Inundation Map Simulator by Ibrahim Demir


The flood inundation map simulator is game developed using latest web technologies (HTML 5, Canvas, CSS 3 and Javascript. The flood inundation maps used in the game is developed by Iowa Flood Center. The game simulates a flood event for Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Users are able to move a block, and place it at a location to build a wall (or levee) to block flood waters from reaching the city. The game then calculates the size of the area protected from flooding. This game is developed as a visualization interface, and a part of Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS). The IFIS is a one-stop web-platform to access community-based flood conditions, forecasts, visualizations, inundation maps and flood-related data, information, and applications.


Evolution by Heather Larkin


“Evolution” is a fun game for learning about evolution and its mechanisms. The game features a bird’s eye view of a population of ‘critters,’ who search for food, replicate and die. The critters are all made up of simple shapes: squares, triangles, circles and lines. The arrangement of these shapes are determined by a genetic ‘code.’ Critters pass their code onto their offspring, with occasional mutations. Players observe as their populations change and then hypothesize the causes. They can test their ideas by changing the critters’ environment. Players can create food sources, add barriers or change environmental constants. By adding food areas, the player can vary the spatial and temporal distribution of food in the environment. The barriers can be used to partially or completely separate populations. Finally, the user can change universal constants, such as the chance that new offspring will have a mutation in its code.


Mecanika by Francois Boucher-Genesse


Humans grow intuitions which allow them to accurately predict motion, but these intuitions blur the intricacies of friction, gravity and inertia together. Misconceptions about forces are particularly resilient, and for 30 years now we’ve known that traditional physics education is not effective at changing them. Static images on a textbook or chalkboard sketches do not convey the idea of inertia and gravity effectively. Simulations are a promising lead, since they allow students to experiment without consequences, and to experience unlikely but useful situations, such as moving in outer space. We submit however that another category of software has the same advantages, with the added benefit of being tremendously engaging for students: video games. The explicit goals and reward structures of video games is effective at keeping students on task, even for “dry” subjects such as Newton laws. Mecanika was thus built to help students perceive the impact invisible forces have on movement.


Osmos by Eddy Boxerman


Osmos is an ”ambient physics game”. It begins simply, tutoring the player on how to navigate in space via action-reaction: eject a bit of mass in one direction, and accelerate in the other direction. Implicit in this is the ”cost” of propulsion: every time the player wishes to change their velocity, they must sacrifice some of their mass; and the goal of the game is often to grow. The player grows by touching and absorbing masses smaller than herself, and must avoid larger masses or be absorbed in turn. These are the ”rules of the game”, and players must learn to navigate efficiently in space in order to progress through the first few levels. Along the way, players are immersed in and gain an intuitive understanding of Newton’s laws of motion in addition to the conservation of mass and momentum. In later levels, more variety is introduced, including gravity wells where orbital mechanics come into play, AI opponents, dense fields where the player must ‘push’ other motes, etc.


Meta!Blast 3D Interactive Application for Cell and Molecular Biology — Level 1: The Cell by Eve Wurtele


It is 2052. An unknown pathogen is decimating the Earth’s vegetation and consequences are reverberating throughout our ecosystem. An accident has stranded a team of scientists inside a photosynthetic cell—you, the lab dishwasher they left behind, are their only hope. Can you navigate the bioship through microscopic hazards, solve metabolic puzzles, and re-engineer microorganisms to save the planet? An unseen world is waiting for you to explore and countless lives depend on your cleverness… Meta!Blast communicates concepts of biology/STEM to high school students. The game provides a 3D world that mimics a photosynthetic cell. A unique server-side database enables educators to create groups and questions according to student needs. Interactivity, educator input, and biological accuracy provide an application to engage high school students in science. In this release, you must pilot the cell and repair the biolog to identify the chloroplast where your boss Dr. Clara Phylton is ensnared.


D.E.E.P. (Deep-Sea Extreme Environment Pilot) by Daniel Rohrlick


Deep-sea Extreme Environment Pilot (DEEP) is an educational three- to four- minute game for use in science centers, aquariums, and museums. The DEEP game is designed to allow users to explore extreme ocean environments and ocean observatories by controlling a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). Features include exploring hydrothermal vent environments and examining organisms that survive in these harsh, underwater worlds. The player is encouraged to freely roam and explore, while at the same time achieving specific gameplay objectives. Points are awarded for successfully completing game missions, answering quizzes, and there is an option to post your total score to a competitive game leaderboard. The DEEP game is currently available on the Xbox 360 and Windows platforms.

Be sure to check out all the other entries — besides “interactive video games,” there are four other categories: video, photography, illustrations, and informational posters & graphics — and vote for your favorite through the Challenge portal. Voting ends at the end of this week — Friday, Oct. 28.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

International S&E Visualization Challenge: Vote Before Friday