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Making Math and Science Fun

October 16th, 2009 1 comment

As a society we seem to be moving toward the desire to participate with our various forms of technology.  We place higher value on websites that have some level of user interaction.  Blogs allow citizens to become journalists and participate with and create their own news.  Video games allow us to control the movements on the screen.  And now we can do the same with roller coasters. These DIY virtual rides have taken their cues from the video game industry.  The designers realized that people want to interact with and produce the rides instead of merely consuming other people’s ideas.  Eric Goodmen says, “This is really the next generation — where there’s a lot more personalization involved.” One of the reasons for this shift from having riders experience the ride to actually creating their own experience is address by Shawn McCoy, the vice-president of marketing and business development at Jack Rouse Associates.  He states “There is a definite need to compete with video games or the gaming industry. Where [players] have control over all of the elements, from the environment to the players’ movement.”

So far there are only a few of these rides open including; “Toy Story Mania” a ride that allows riders to shoot at targets as they roll down the track and to shape their experience. “CyberSpace Mountain” lets riders customize their experience from a menu of drops, loops and other features. “Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit” which has riders create a personal musical soundtrack for the ride. The newest is The “Sum of All Thrills” ride that lets kids use computer tablets to design either a virtual roller coaster, bobsled track or plane ride. Then they can climb into a robotic carriage that uses virtual-reality technology and actually experience the ride they’ve created. When designing the ride kids use touch-screen computers, a digital ruler, and pre-selected track options.  If they try to build something physically impossible then they’re asked to retool their ideas. The “Sum of All Thrills” designers think that the ride will help kids learn that “math and science can be fun.” Goodman says, “I think it’s really empowering for the kids to realize that the math doesn’t control them. They get to control the math.”A CNN article by John D. Sutter sights “The Raytheon Company, a maker of weapons and defense systems, as saying that they sponsored the exhibit as a way to get middle-school aged kids more interested in careers in math and engineering.” William Swanson, chairman and chief executive officer of Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon said, “What we need to do is help young children to understand how they can use math. If we can get young kids excited, we can build the pipeline… For us, it’s a long-term strategy.”I find myself wondering if it will work and if it does than what does that mean?  How could we incorporate that into other areas? Maybe in the future similar trends can be used to get kids thinking more favorably about history and literature for example.  McCoy mentioned that museums and zoos are beginning to incorporate similar technologies.  So who knows?