Video games typically have a bad reputation with parents. Parents see their children lolling about in front of their computers, eyes intently staring at the screen. Automatically, regardless of the contents of the game, children are told to turn off their devices and go outside to play. As much as the Brackitz team agrees with children spending time outside, we also believe that computers can be helpful in aiding engineering education. A combination of both digital and tactile exploration will lead to more efficient engineers and well-rounded students.
Minecraft, imagined by Swedish creator Markus Persson, has an estimated 40 million players worldwide and has had over ten million downloads. Minecraft users dig, build, and fly their way through an 8-bit, chunky world of digital sheep, cows, dogs, spiders, skeletons, and zombies. Brackitz and Minecraft are educational toys for both girls and boys and allow for creative and imaginative play. Like the Brackitz engineering toy, Minecraft is an example of open-ended play and allows for an unlimited amount of imagination. Users can build castles, roller coasters, bridges, boats, skyscrapers, and much more. Scott Smith, head of research lab Changeist and writer of “Could Minecraft be the Next Great Engineering School”for Quartz magazine argues Minecraft is beneficial for students interested in STEM education.
“The game’s open, often cooperative play, peer-built environments and simplicity has drawn an army of dedicated players who often spend days tunneling, hammering and building, just for the pleasure of making.”—Scott Smith
Minecraft allows users to build out of cubes in a three-dimensional world. Users learn to gather and combine elements to create new resources. The Minecraft world consists of different terrains including plains, mountains, forests, caves, deserts, and oceans. The world is made up of cubes that represent different minerals like dirt, stone, water, wood, and wool. Building with Brackitz is similar to Minecraft but in the real, gravity driven 3D world. Kids can construct anything they want from the fundamental building elements. By balancing digital tools like Minecraft with real-world construction toys like Brackitz children are exposed to the real-life engineering process. Today’s engineers and designers use computers to design things than are then created in 3D space.
Students at Lawrence Hall of Science build a rollercoaster and a ferris wheel with Brackitz’easy to connect maple planks and plastic connectors.
The Minecraft game is not just for recreational use. One charter school in California has just introduced a class called “Electrical Engineering & Minecraft”and they strive to teach students about circuits, science, and engineering with digital computing. Minecraft users have been asked by Mojang, the makers of Minecraft, to help the UN Habitat with a project called “Block by Block,”an effort to redesign 300 public spaces over the next several years. Users of Minecraft are using digital technology to help improve real neighborhoods and communities.
Like the building toys offered by Brackitz, Minecraft is beneficial for nearly every age. Minecraft users are accidentally learning the fundamentals of engineering. Users learn independently and as part of a community with Minecraft’s multiplayer modes. Again, Brackitz is the tactile side of the same coin. Bracktiz are beneficial for every age and offer independent as well as cooperative group and team building. The Brackitz team believes a combination of digital and tactile educational experiences will better prepare children for the future.