For NASA, inspiration is no game

Tuesday - 7/6/2010, 10:45am EDT

Daniel Laughlin, project manager for NASA's Learning Technologies Project

Click below to hear the interview

Download mp3

By Vyomika Jairam
Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

NASA has a new strategy to get more students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math: video games.

Following the White House's Educate to Innovate initiative aimed at inspiring more graduates in STEM fields, Dr. Daniel Laughlin, manager of NASA's Learning Technologies Project, told the Federal Drive why the agency turned to video games.

"We know from research that 98 percent of kids, by the time they get to college, report that they played video games at least at some point on a regular basis," Dr. Laughlin said. "So it was a way to reach a big audience."

"Moonbase Alpha" places the player inside an astronaut's helmet on a hypothetical moonbase as they race against the clock to fix a minor disaster.

"You move around in a 3-D space on your computer, and you experience the gravity of one-sixth G just like you would on the moon," Dr. Laughlin said. The game even has a call from the White House during the mission.

NASA modeled "Moonbase Alpha" after the Army had success with their own video game "America's Army".

The game, said Laughlin, is intended to inspire students to learn science and technology. "The fact is that a lot of the good learning happens when you're having fun, and there's no reason that fun can't be educational."