Contributed by Karolina Mellor, Ph.D., Program Manager, Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale University
Yale Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering recently developed an educational computer game which introduces the concepts of sustainability, chemistry and rational design to undergraduate students using a virtual environment. Safer Chemical Design Game intended for incorporation into any chemistry course for majors or non-majors that teaches sustainability and/or the Principles of Green Chemistry. The game is free of charge and encourages students to think like professional chemical designers and to develop a chemical product with respect to function and improved human and environmental health.
Student’s skills in communication and critical thinking can be increased substantially by integrating practical and hands-on experiences into their curriculum. In addition, the use of practical experiences, as well as the bridging of disciplines through projects, can positively influence interest in science and knowledge retention. Integrating these findings into existing lesson plans promotes the development of more integrative courses and allows students to make more connections between the scientific topics of study and the problems that they face in daily life.
The Safer Chemical Design Game designed to introduce students to safer chemical design concepts and is focused on the manipulation of physicochemical parameters in order to minimize the undesired biological and environmental interactions of a hypothetical commercial chemical. The game scenarios presented to the student (player) model the decision-making process used by professionals to design a new chemical. Critically, the computer game simulates the real-world constraints that may affect chemical product development. The challenge is for the students to design a safer and more sustainable chemical product using multi-criteria decision analysis. Players can select different combinations of molecular parameters that lead to qualitative outputs related to toxicity, biodegradability, biotransformation and overall performance. In doing so, the player must navigate potential trade-offs that are consequences of their choices. Feedback after each task allows players to redesign the chemical product to improve the design.
- Produce a scientifically accurate game that provides students an opportunity to solve problems as though they are practicing professionals.
- Engage and entertain students through a captivating storyline and the relevance to real-world issues (i.e. sustainability).
- Teach sustainable design principals and life cycle thinking.
- Educate students about toxicity, biodegradability, and overall performance of a hypothetic chemical product.
- Incorporate systems thinking and interdisciplinary content at the nexus of chemistry, toxicology, and environmental science.
The Safer Chemical Design Game is live and can be accessed at http://greenchemistry.yale.edu/education/undergraduate-graduate → Safer Chemical Design Game.