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Contagion simulations in Ms. Mollie Kelleher's Scalable Game Design class began as you might expect... with the zombie apocalypse. Students learned to program simulations that would demonstrate the effects of a contagious outbreak given certain conditions. Since zombies are quite adept at infecting humans, and because there really is no cure once you become undead, the simulations would stabilize after being run for a short time. Other simulations created to demonstrate different situations, such as a flu pandemic or other viral outbreak, might reach a different type of homeostasis where cure rates and prevention balance out the rate of infection. These are the concepts being explored in Ms. Kelleher's class, along with computer programming, logic statements, computational thinking, and cause and effect.
After mastering the art of creating the zombie apocalypse and the code that goes along with it, students had the opportunity to create their own simulations to model different situations that might follow a contagion storyline. The creativity and innovation that followed was so exciting to witness. One student recalled learning about turncoats during the revolutionary war in Ms. Uzzalino's Social Studies class, so modeled a simulation where a patriot may turn into a redcoat (as defined with a specific probability in the code) upon coming into contact with the British. Another student modeled her simulation after a popular episode of the cult classic "Dr. Who" in which affected minors became 'empty children' and were cured by coming into contact with the tardis. Yet another model demonstrated the spread of the black plague, complete with dead rats, infected fleas, exterminators, and builders (who created quarantines).
The programming is made possible through a CU Boulder-developed software created by Dr. Alex Reppenning called Agent Sheets. The software uses drag & drop programming to increase student engagement with computer language while allowing students to explore video game and simulation design. Learn more about CU's Scalable Game Design initiative at their website.
Experience the student simulations created in Ms. Kelleher's class for yourself as they are uploaded to CU's SGD arcade.
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