Fold it: Solve Problems for Science and Change the World
What it is: Fold it is a puzzle game based on science that helps change the world. Download the Fold It game and puzzles for free and contribute to the understanding of protein folding and amino acids. By playing this game, students take part in actually contributing to science. The implications of the Fold It game are huge, playing this game helps scientists better understand protein structure prediction and protein design. This means that by playing a little puzzle game, your students are contributing to better understanding of the role proteins play in diseases such as HIV, cancer, and Alzheimers, and even bio fuel technology. Scientists collect data from the game to find out if humans pattern recognition abilities and puzzle solving abilities make them more efficient than computers at pattern folding tasks. If it turns out that humans are more efficient, human strategies can be applied to computers to make the process even faster.
How to integrate Fold It into the classroom: If your students are currently learning about cells, proteins, amino acid, and biological make up, Fold It is an incredible way for them to really understand all of these working parts, while contributing to science. The puzzle and pattern nature of this game should appeal to a wide range of students…who doesn’t enjoy a good exercise in pattern recognition and problem solving? On the about page, your students can read the background “briefing” about the game and the science that they are contributing to by playing the game. There is also a Fold It wiki with great links for more in-depth learning and understanding. Not only will your students be learning important science concepts (I’m talking the building blocks of life here!), they will also be actually contributing to science by playing. How cool is that?! There is a large collection of puzzles with new puzzles being released and completed puzzles expiring. Don’t know anything about biology? No problem, you can play the game without understanding the biology concepts behind it (although for me, knowing the background of what I am looking at makes it that much cooler!). Check out the blog where you can read the results of how the game play has affected real science.
Tips: The idea of building games to impact the real world is incredible to me, the first time I had considered this was when I watched this TED talk by Jane McGonigal. If you haven’t seen it yet it is worth a watch! You can read my original post about this TED talk here.
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Fold It in your classroom.