Entrepreneur Osman Rashid is taking the wraps off his latest education venture on Tuesday, introducing a mobile game designed to inspire interest in science and help students meet new education standards.
Galxyz Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., plans to launch a mobile application of the same name this fall that will allow players to engage in intergalactic battles with the fictional King Dullard and hunt for “curiosity particles.” But the game was developed in partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences to impart real lessons about physics, mathematics, astronomy and more.
It’s one of many recents examples where entrepreneurs and nonprofits are trying to leverage the tools of technology to inspire interest in the subject matter. Educators and employers alike stress the growing importance of getting students interested in so-called STEM or STEAM subjects, to develop the science, technology, engineering, art and math skills so critical to the modern economy.
Last week, LittleBits of New York announced the product of its collaboration with NASA, a “Space Kit” of electronic modules and experiments that allow users to build tiny versions of the Mars Rover, the International Space Station and more. Meanwhile, San Francisco’s RobotsLAB sells a package of robots and apps designed to help teach children geometry, trigonometry and calculus.
“We’re trying to completely blur the lines between gaming and learning,” Rashid said in an interview. “The whole concept is we want kids to be able to apply what they’re learning instead of just memorizing it.”
Each “curiosity particle” amounts to a specific lesson structured to conform with the Next Generation Science Standards curricula for grades 3-12, new education guidelines being adopted throughout the U.S. that emphasis the importance of engineering and technology. The digital game intersects with the real world as well, prompting elementary students to, say, build a catapult out of household items and high school students to construct a solar cell.
Of course, by now it’s clear that the simple notion that you can nudge people to be more productive or engaged just by wrapping work in a game has been wildly oversold. Gartner has said that “gamification” is nearing the peak of its hype cycle and headed for the long “trough of disillusionment.” The research firm estimates that 80 percent of gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives this year because of poor design.
So it remains to be seen whether Galxyz can come up with a formula the holds the attention of kids reared on Plants vs. Zombies and Titanfall.
Rashid previously co-founded online textbook retailer Chegg, which went public late last year, and interactive textbook startup Kno, which Intel acquired. The new company has raised funds from Relay Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Emerson Collective.
Galxyz will be another for-profit venture, but Rashid said the company is still determining whether the right model is a paid app, subscription, in app purchases, or some combination.
“The New York Academy of Sciences was immediately drawn to the adventurous, immersive aspects of Galxyz, as well as Rashid’s stellar track record as a leader in the space of educational technology,” said Ellis Rubinstein, CEO of the academy, in a statement. “The focus on problem solving delivered at the intersection of mobile, gaming and 21st century skill development gives us a chance to reach kids around the world in a way that appeals to them.”
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