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.

“Scientific Visions That Take the Prize”

February 2nd, 2012 / in Research News / by Erwin Gianchandani

International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge [image courtesy NSF].Back in October, we told you about the ninth International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge — a joint effort by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Science magazine to celebrate the grand tradition of visualization, specifically for communicating science, engineering, and technology for education and journalistic purposes. For the first time ever, this year’s Challenge allowed participants to submit entries online, and the public was allowed to vote for its favorite images as “People’s Choice” winners. Today, NSF and Science have announced the competition’s winners.

See the winners of the Interactive Games category — and a video — after the jump:

1st place:


FoldIt by Seth Cooper et al., University of Washington


Foldit [image courtesy via University of Washington].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.


Honorable Mentions:


Meta!Blast 3D Interactive Application for Cell and Molecular Biology — Level 1: The Cell by Eve Wurtele et al., Iowa State University


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.


Build-a-Body by Jeremy Friedberg et al., Spongelab Interactive


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!


Powers of Minus Ten by Laura Lynn Gonzales, Green-Eye Visualization


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.


And the People’s Choice:


Velu the welder by Muralitharan Vengadasalam et al., Tata Consultancy Services


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.

And here’s a video featuring all the winners:

To learn more, view the NSF press release announcing the winners as well as all the winning submissions on the Visualization Challenge website — and pick up a copy of tomorrow’s Science magazine in which they will be featured.

And there’s even more coverage on’s Cosmic Log this afternoon.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

“Scientific Visions That Take the Prize”