Can Minecraft Inspire the Next Generation of Road Designers?
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When it comes to teaching kids about road safety, most of us focus on the “stop, look, listen, and think” method, hoping our children remember to take care when crossing, and obey the pedestrian signals at intersections.
However, one UK government agency is taking things a step further. England’s National Highways division has teamed up with Minecraft, the smash hit video game, to teach school kids some road safety tips, and also to “inspire the next generation of talented engineers and scientists.”
Interested students can get an insight into the skills and considerations needed when designing roadways, by playing around with simulations of real proposals within the world of Minecraft.
The initiative is intended to give kids an introduction into computer programming, in addition to some elements of civil engineering, like the environmental and archeological impacts of building new highways.
Designing roads is no easy task.
Why is the UK government teaching kids about road design?
RAC quotes Natalie Jones, the National Highways Talent Delivery Lead, who says, “We want to inspire the next generation of talented engineers and scientists, on whom the country’s infrastructure and national economy will one day depend.”
And how better to engage with today’s youth than through Minecraft? Since its release in 2011, Minecraft has become the best-selling video game of all time, and still has over 140 million monthly active users.
National Highways hopes that students can use Minecraft to get first-hand experience of building roads, and in doing so, teach them about the complex issues involved.
Working with BlockBuilders Youth Engagement, National Highways have devised several real-world scenarios within the game.
A representative from the Blockbuilders says, “Creative platforms such as these open up a whole new world of learning for young people, where they can be directly engaged with their local environment and find out more about engineering.”
How will it work?
National Highway has devised several activities within Minecraft that are based on real world scenarios.
For example, the UK government is currently working on a proposed road crossing of the Thames estuary, a wide expanse of water where the River Thames meets the North Sea.
Minecraft will include a tunnel digging game, where students are encouraged to find the least environmentally invasive route across the water, while also ensuring clear signage and logical entry points for the communities on each side.
Another challenge involves the expansion of an existing roadway, the A303, past the famous Stonehenge monument. Students are being asked to find the best way to alleviate traffic issues, while respecting the historical and religious significance of the site.
In total, there are five games of varying difficulty for students to delve into, intended for kids aged 7 through 14. According to the RAC, they will learn about local traffic laws, UK road signs, road markings, and even “garage speak” or mechanic’s jargon!
It’s a novel way to engage children with their local communities, and who knows, maybe they can teach the adults a thing or two along the way.