Team Wins Grant for Environmentalist Game

Video Game Designed for High School Students Wins $238,000 From MacArthur Foundation

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A UC Berkeley professor and his team of researchers have been awarded a $238,000 grant, announced on Thursday, for their work in creating an environmental studies video game for high school students.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation held a competition last year for innovations in learning to use digital media, awarding a total of $2 million to seventeen winners.

UC Berkeley professor of art practice Greg Niemeyer, two graduate students, a programmer and two associates in Los Angeles and Cairo were announced as members of the winning team last Thursday.

The team has been awarded a grant of $238,000-the largest amount given this year for the award-for their development of the innovative and educational video game "Black Cloud."

In the game, high school students take on the role of real estate developers or environmentalists and use air quality sensors to detect levels of pollution in order to find good places for conservation or development, Niemeyer said.

"The goal for each team is to capture as many sensors as possible, and place them in areas where they can collect as much information as they can to help their cause," he said.

The game was developed to be part of the curriculum at Manual Arts High School in South Central Los Angeles, though the team said they want to see it expand to other schools as well.

Black Cloud has both an educational and philanthropic purpose, the team said.

"Those involved in the game ... will help fight pollution and reduce levels of carbon monoxide," said team arts manager Aida Eltorie in an e-mail.

Niemeyer also believes the game will help further the students' knowledge of research and science.

"Students will learn to read graphs and understand how critical it is to place sensors in certain areas," he said. "We hope they learn to see that the truth is really a matter of what you're after."

According to Ben Stokes, Program Officer of Digital Learning and Media for the MacArthur Foundation, this is one of the first competitions of its kind.

"We're focusing more on what young people are doing ... and using this huge new technology to focus on learning," he said.

Despite the competition's novelty, MacArthur Foundation officials said they were happy with the outcome.

"(The competition) opened our eyes to what else is out there," Stokes said. "We were really impressed ... and our hope is to have another next year."


Contact Kelly Fitzpatrick at [email protected]

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