Using Immune Attack to teach about Internet research.

I am experimenting with using Immune Attack to get students interested in science.  In particular, to get kids to ask questions about nanotech, chemistry or biology, etc in the game and to research their answer on the Web.  I presented this idea to the students of Mr. Kenneth Leslie’s engineering class at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, DC.  I asked, “Do you think we could really build a Nanobot, and if we did what would be build it out of?”  I had prepared three questions:  How much pressure would it have to withstand?  What material could withstand that pressure?  What would it look like?

The McKinley students answered with questions of their own, ones that had never crossed my mind:  “How will we control the Nanobot from outside the body?”  “What kind of motor will it have?”   Certainly a miniature motor or even a radio transmitter will not fit into a 50 micrometer box.  A Nanobot must truly be impossible.

We made a list of questions, small, easy to focus on.
1.  How much pressure is in arteries?  In veins?
2.  How much pressure can Titanium withstand?
3.  How much pressure can Aluminum withstand?
4.  How much pressure can Nanotubes withstand?

The goals were simple, write a 3 sentence report with 2 references.  The first reference could be Wikipedia, the second reference should be from a peer reviewed paper, or from the website of a professor at a university.

This one day’s experiment was successful.  The students were focused on their tasks, as the questions were not too difficult but still very interesting.  I never did get the actual repots from Mr. Leslie, but we have plans to create similar class experiences for this coming school year.

After we release Immune Attack 3.0 in October, 2009, I plan to encourage students from all over to submit these 3 sentence reports to our online Mission Intelligence database.  Students, teachers and scientists can vote for the database entries that they like.  We incorporate the best into the Mission Intelligence Database for Immune Attack 3.0.

If any teacher is interested in discussing this with us, please reply below, or email me at mstegman at fas dot org.

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