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  • Writer's pictureJames Kerr A Beginner's Site for Creating Educational Video Games

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

In the game " Pharaoh's Physics," the procedural rhetoric is all about movement. The students in my Physics classes share some common ground with the Egyptians. They have an innate understanding of how things move when a force is applied. They have experienced personally that more force may be required to make an object move. They have also employed simple tools such as a lever or a wedge. But the Egyptians appear to lack what Isaac Newton brought to the table, a set of laws that make it possible to predict motion. In this game, the way things work depends on forces that act on objects. Progress is made in the game as a player makes specific determinations based on the forces that act on three types of stone that are present in the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The internal grammar includes the understanding and use of simple tools that provide mechanical advantages .The tools are employed in three varied but similar contexts by the game player. The game player must use a basic understanding of forces acting on an object and use a more advanced set of relationships to calculate how force can be determined on a slope, and also how force relates to the coefficient of friction, a description of the relationship between two different surfaces. This coefficient is useful in determining the maximal static frictional force which in turn is used to determine the minimal force required to move an object from rest.

The external grammar for this game is greatly defined by historical setting. Even today, there is no standing edifice that compares to the Great Pyramid of Giza. Our grand machines and knowledge of how things work that has sent men on missions to the moon and launched satellites to study the solar system has not produced anything as spectacular on the earth as the pyramids that the Egyptians built. How did they do it? The game includes aspects of the theories that have been proposed. The reading and game choices reveal a practical approach to building. The physics is the same, but modern scholars have achieved a great deal by applying Newton's laws. Our sky scrapers, bridges, and infrastructure for highly populated cities demonstrate our contemporary use of physics. In many ways, my students will discover that the external grammar of physics is no different for the Egyptians than it is for them. Man creates. Man uses his wits to determine relationships and advantages that can be applied though the use of simple machines. They, however will calculate the force and know not by experience but by computation exactly what will be needed to move the stones.

The game requires students to make calculations that will ultimately lead to motion or lack of motion. As students demonstrate success with this aspect of the game, they will be provided further opportunities to solve similar problems that do not involve the movement of huge blocks of stone. The lab applications for what the students have learned in the game will follow and build on the learning that has taken place in the game.

The Pharaoh’s Physics game acts as both a learning experience and also a useful assessment tool. Since the Twine software does not naturally lend itself to “in-game” assessment, evidence for learning will be gathered externally or “out-of-game.”

In each of the game’s three choices, the student must calculate force. The calculations require a prior understanding of: coefficient of friction, maximal static friction, normal force, gravitational force, and the interactions or relationships of theses variables that define the potential for motion of a mass. The conditions that vary slightly at each site include angle, mass, and the coefficient of friction for interacting surfaces.

To assess the student’s learning, a student exploration form will be required. The form will include a list of potentially applicable equations as well as assigned spaces where students will record and explain their thought processes. For each of the three scenarios presented in the game, (Aswan,Tufa, and Giza Plain), the student explanation will include: 1) A paragraph that describes the thinking process involved in attaining the net force, 2) A rough sketch or model of the scenario described in each of the three scenarios for the game, 3) A correctly labeled quantitative force diagram that depicts all of the forces acting on a block, 4) An equation that can be used to determine the normal force, maximal static frictional force, or kinetic frictional force, and 5) Calculations that quantify how the net force required to move the block will be determined.

Based on the collected evidence, students will receive individualized feedback concerning the successful completion of the Pharaoh’s Physics student exploration form. Before moving forward to a lab experience that employs the models that were first presented in the Pharaoh’s Physics game, students will demonstrate their understanding by revising or updating their original student exploration form as necessary.

The game meets the criteria that I have defined in my Assessment Design Checklist (A.D.C.) in the following ways: 1) The goals for the assessment are clearly stated in the introduction. Students will apply their understanding of Newtonian laws to calculate constant velocity and / or acceleration of a three separate stones that are included in the structure of the Great Pyramid of Giza. 2) Students will be able to access the game via their school-issued Chromebooks. Teaming will be required as the Twine game provides no options for closed captions. 3) As students use their knowledge of physics equations to predict the movement of a stone, they will immediately apply their leaning to foster the forward movement of the game. 4) Success at the game requires students to exercise some self regulation, Students will make choices that lead the story forward. Feedback is provided within the structure of the game. 5) Based on the student progress through the game, multiple attempts may prove to be necessary. Student's discovery may lead to further interest in the varied theories of how the Egyptians used force to move the large stones. Students may also become interested in progression of the use of simple machines in the general history or construction.

The next steps in instruction will be to consider the relationship between force and energy. Student's understanding of force is required as a precursor of the study of energy.

Click on the Twinery Icon to play the Pharaoh's Physics Game.

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