A team of undergraduates at the University of Hull have created a Minecraft world full of structures of proteins, chemicals and chemical history to help introduce complex scientific concepts to children.
Using models of proteins and chemicals from an online database, the team imported the structures into Minecraft, where they created replicas of those shapes. Each atom is represented by a different coloured block, and each ribbon in the model represents a chain, with individual atoms not shown unless they are particularly important.
The world also contains treasure chests filled with puzzles and quizzes intended to encourage children to learn about biochemistry.
“Anyone can explore the building blocks of these incredible natural nano-machines,” explained researchers Mark Lorch and Joel Mills on The Conversation. “You can discover how just 20 chemical building blocks can result in the astonishing diversity of structures and functions that are required to hold living things together.”
“Imagine a science lesson where the class is let lose in Minecraft with instructions to find a set of objects hidden on key parts of molecules,” they said. “Upon retrieving them the teacher will know which molecules each student has explored and what questions they may have answered to find the objects. All this time, the children think they have just been playing a game.”
“The only limits are the imagination of teachers and students”.