What do you imagine scientists do each day? Maybe stand around in a lab coat and pour things into test tubes? Well, that is something scientists might do, but they also get to go on lots of exciting adventures. They explore thousands of feet under the sea, with robots. Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, will spend months working at sea, going all over the world, visiting places from Antarctica to Iceland and all the warmer locales in between. And every time there’s a big earthquake, scientists fly to the earthquake location as fast as they can and try to predict the sites of the aftershocks, rushing to record as many as they can using their scientific instruments.
Now, these expeditions aren’t just for scientists anymore. You can have your own scientific adventure! A team of scientists, artists, and students at Scripps has found a way to bring these adventures into your living room through video games. The team has developed games for kids to have fun and learn about earthquakes and oceanography. The games require a Windows operating system, and are available for free download at the new SIO Games website.
The Deep-sea Extreme Environment Pilot (DEEP) game lets you pilot a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, miles below the sea surface. As a pilot, you will get a series of important and challenging scientific missions, like taking a water sample from an undersea vent, called a “black smoker” where the water can reach over 700º F! Along the way, you’re likely to encounter some strange deep-sea creatures, so be ready to take pictures with the ROV’s camera.
In the Quake Catcher video game, you are a seismologist studying earthquakes. You fly through a city where a major earthquake has occurred, and search for sites to place your earthquake sensors. Once you choose a place to put the sensor, you have to complete a “mini-game” before you can install it. The mini-games range from silly—chasing down a thief who’s stolen your sensor—to serious—practicing earthquake preparedness and safety by packing an earthquake emergency kit and practicing drop-cover-hold-on. All the mini-games have a time limit, so you’ve got to pass them fast to deploy as many sensors as possible before the aftershocks start. Quake Catcher requires a Kinect sensor and room to jump around—you won’t be sitting still for this game!
The third activity available on the SIOgames website is VisTool. This isn’t a game, but it’s a tool that let’s you visualize where earthquakes are happening around the world, their magnitude and how often they occur. After practicing working as a seismologist in the Quake Catcher game, you’ll see that this tool is a great way to learn more about earthquakes that happened earlier this month or even earlier today!
So, if you want to learn more about earthquakes, the deep sea, and the adventurous life of a scientist, visit the new website and download these free video games. Happy exploring!
– Mallory Pickett is a master’s student in the lab of chemical oceanographer Andreas Andersson at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
Note: Funding for this work provided by the National Science Foundation, the Green’s Foundation and the Ocean Observatories Initiative.