The stability of the U.S. economy is increasingly dependent on our ability to compete globally in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This is especially true within the context of agriculture. Despite many years of proactively addressing STEM education issues, the future still looks relatively bleak. There are several challenges associated with motivating students to explore and then stay in a STEM field. Therefore, it is crucial that student educational hurdles and conceptual understanding be examined. This analysis takes the first step in identifying one academic hurdle identified as “difficult science concepts”. More specifically, researchers examined perceived factors associated with making concepts “difficult” within cross-disciplinary, cross-scholastic educational settings.
A multidisciplinary team of educational and animal scientists from the University of Kentucky and Purdue University worked together to identify a difficult science concept in introductory university animal science classes. After extensive evaluation, the researchers identified animal digestion as the concept students struggled to comprehend most. Therefore, they teamed up with game designers from SuperSoul to design and create "Microvets". Microvets situates students into a scenario where they become novice veterinarians who volunteered to be the first humans to navigate an equine digestive system from the inside. Utilizing modern technology, microvets must explore Maggie the horse's digestive system and diagnose any abnormalities. They are assisted by the snarky robot Anthony as they immerse themselves in the Maggie's biology. This virtual educational gaming environment allows students to engage with and visually see what is traditionally abstractly taught with limited context. Additionally, the self-guided instruction, allows students to explore new vocabulary and complex holistic systems within any environment. To play Microvets please click the middle image below.