Putting science and maths learning into state-wide ‘Praxis’

Posted on October 30, 2012


Games that make a difference: David Smith, centre, with Quantum Victoria’s Ms Bennett and Dr Torabi

Video games that can help students learn science and maths while also assessing their mastery of these subjects are on their way into Victorian school classrooms with the help of La Trobe University computer science student, David Smith.

Mr Smith, a third-year student, has been awarded a rare one-year placement with Quantum Victoria, a centre of excellence and innovation established by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

The Centre works in partnership with La Trobe University on school curriculum innovation for science, technology, engineering and maths. The placement, as Games and Learning Officer, was made under La Trobe University’s successful Industry Based Learning program, sponsored by the Victorian Department of Business and Innovation.

Senior lecturer Dr Torab Torabi said the program, developed with industry partners, allows La Trobe computer science and computer engineering students to gain real world technical and organisational experience as part of their course.

A scene from the La Trobe  game ‘Praxis’

‘Games for Change’ speaker

Mr Smith is undertaking a double degree, Computer Science in Games Technology and Mathematics. He is also co-founder of his own independent game company, TGT Studios, and has been chosen as a speaker for Australia’s first ‘Games for Change’ conference to be held in Melbourne in November.

Founded in 2004, ‘Games for Change’ helps create and distribute social impact games as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.

Quantum Victoria’s Director, Ms Soula Bennett, said during his placement Mr Smith has contributed to a series of game-based learning programs, including one called  ‘Praxis’ which explores energy, forces and motion for year 7 and 8 students.

‘David has been an invaluable member of the Quantum Victoria team both in the capacity of the development of new programs, but also supporting the team in delivering the programs.’

The team Mr Smith works with at Quantum Victoria comprises teachers, a scientist, a game developer, technicians and an administrator. He said Quantum Victoria was the perfect place for him to ‘test the skills I’d been developing during my course’.

‘Praxis’ and a range of other games

David Smith, left,  and former La Trobe computer systems software engineering graduate and staff member Paul Taylor at work in Quantum Victoria’s Games and Learning lab.

‘When I started, my primary goal was the completion of  ‘Praxis’ a game that I, along with a team of other La Trobe students, had been developing for Quantum as our final year Industry Project, co-ordinated by Dr Torabi’.

Another project he helped finalise was ‘Kinecting Sports and Mathematics’, a mathematics program that uses a motion detecting device called ‘Kinect’ to help teach the calculation of means.

‘For this I drew on my skills in mathematics, both from my university studies and as a tutor, and I was able to effectively deliver the program – and even suggest a few modifications which enhanced the program.’

Other game programs he has worked on for Victorian schools were ‘Minecraft’, ‘QFI – Quantum Forensic Investigation’ and ‘The Amazing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) Race’.

‘For the latter I used my technical skills to write and design an iPad component and I also invigorated other programs using my design expertise,’ he said.

La Trobe Head of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, Dr Wenny Rahayu said with some 600 current students, more than 70 at PhD level, La Trobe University was making a solid contribution to a wide range of industry-driven research, from game technology and business systems to bio-informatics and software engineering.

Another scene from ‘Praxis’