As part of their Try Science initiative, IBM has introduced Power Up, a web site which includes a multiplayer online game based on a cry for help from the planet Helios. Those idiots over at Helios have let their planet be threatened by fossil-fuel driven climate change and they need help from bright-eyed young engineering wanna-be earthlings. Fortunately, centuries ago the ancestors of the Helians developed solar, wind and water power which ushered in an era of stability before the current generations got out of control with the energy addiction again. Thus, the technologies need only be re-discovered, Indiana Jones style. How are the reviews?Development of the game included input from hundreds of teens aged 12 to 16. But already, reviews are mixed, leaning towards discouraging. Naturally, slam number one is no Mac compatibility. Published on the power up game page is a comment attributed to a 15-year old:
"PowerUp lets me save the world the way I want to."
followed by the somewhat unbelievably naive:
"I never thought there would be a game where I learn while playing with my friends."
On the other hand, CleanTech sums up a key deficiency:
Too bad teens, if they opt to suffer the insultingly-named SmogGobs, will have find more pedantic ways to learn about geothermal, biofuel, waste to energy, biomass, hydrogen and fuel cells, or—gasp!—nuclear energy.
And of course, there is the inevitable troll-swipe, buried in the forum:
Just played it. Its god awful.
Call us old-fashioned, but wouldn't teens interested in engineering be better off with hands-on adventures like D-I-Y Solar Panels or wind turbine electric car toys? But, in the words of Stanley Litow, VP of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs and president of the IBM International Foundation: "Virtual worlds and 3-D are an unexplored resource in education. We asked our best researchers to incorporate the use of this technology into traditional educational curriculum." With the best minds of the big blue behind it, it's got to have something? Or is the situation in American science and engineering as dreary as we have been led to fear?
If you give it a try, let us know in the comments what you think.