Powers of Minus TEN-Cells and Genetics
Deals with biology // cells // molecular science
  mitosis // transcription // translation // cell parts // DNA replication // proteins // molecules
Intended for high school // university
Available on Web // Android // iOS
Cost paid
   
Developed by Green-Eye Visualization, LLC (external) (professional developer)
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Powers of Minus TEN-Cells and Genetics

Powers of Minus Ten lets you interactively zoom into a human hand and explore environments with scientifically-accurate 3D content. Discover some of the basic concepts in biology and learn about the structures of a few of the key cells, proteins, and molecules found in our bodies.

POMT is...

  • meant to be a general introduction to the science behind cells and genetics
  • an ever-expanding visual guide to the microcosm (More content is constantly in the works)
  • a relatively seamless zooming experience that emphasizes the interconnectedness of life's processes at different levels of magnification
  • originally developed to supplement late middle school to early high school introductory science curriculum

Produced with funding from the National Science Foundation, Powers of Minus Ten is perfect for a general introduction to the structures of the cell and key molecular processes.

The iPad version includes instructional mini-games.

Description Provided by Developer



Screenshots of Powers of Minus TEN-Cells and Genetics


Scorecards

Expert Reviews
By scientists and teachers
13 / 15
Fun
5 / 5
Learning
5 / 5
Science
4 / 5
Player Reviews
By everyone else (and you!)
13 / 15
Fun
5 / 5
Learning
5 / 5
Science
4 / 5

Expert Reviews

Science is a Game.

August 12, 2013

Melanie Stegman

Melanie Stegman
I am a biochemist, making games to teach the invisible bits of cell biology.

Review criteria.

  • Fun: Balance of challenge and reward.
  • Learning/Game: Experience of discovery.
  • Science: Richness of the knowledge gained.

Fun. Balance of challenge and reward. POMT Cells and Genetics is immersive and engaging. The simple mechanism draws you in with no distractions about how or what you are “supposed” to do. POMT Cells and Genetics has two parts: The exploration of a human hand and several challenges that require objects found in the hand. As the name “Powers of Minus TEN” implies, the exploration of the hand is not through time or distance but through size: We start in our universe with a hand as big as ours and we travel deeper into smaller and smaller universes… where we find cells, proteins, molecules.

Players move into smaller universes and click on anything that interests them. Pop up Points as well as pop up information are the reward. We are motivated to keep looking by subtle hints that more points and more objects are available.

The game design is soft spoken, almost unnoticeable. Challenges are listed in the pull down menus, and are only available after all objects are found. But the real motivator is the science. The beauty and the simplicity with which the cells and the inner space of the hand is presented. The blood vessels and skin cells looks tangible and approachable, even though they still are wondrous and brimming full of really neat secrets.

The Challenges are so simple that there are no directions, only some things to try dragging objects around, some "you lost points" and "you got points" pop ups to let you know whether you are going in the correct direction or should try dragging something else. The Mitosis challenge is subtle in its simplicity. A circle of arrows with blank spaces between then next to a column of the cells we found, in all the various stages of mitosis. When you press START, all that happens is the timer starts counting down. Intuitively you discover that you can drag the cells to the arrows. You are supposed to put the cells in order, the order of mitosis.

Since you are trying to beat the clock you start looking for a quick way to know which of these cells goes first…. Soon you find your self squinting at the relative position and state of the blue Chromosomes in each cell, for this is the best way to tell the images apart.

When you get the cells in order, a column of paragraphs appear where the cell were. (Now you wonder whether you can and should drag paragraphs. Oh, you can. You try to arrange those paragraphs without reading them... but I'm telling you, you can't beat the clock. Time runs out! You must replay from the beginning! Frustrating. But the images so pretty, and the game so simple: damn it, I can beat the clock!) You don’t want to read the paragraphs, you just want to place them in order to finish the challenge. So you skim for key words that differentiate the paragraphs. What do you know, those are the key phrases you to describe your own observations of the cells themselves. The last thing to do it place the names of each stage into the circle of arrows. Now when you hear the names you remember the key phrases from their paragraphs, and those key phrases have meaning to you because you remember the appearance of the chromosomes…. You have completed the challenge. Like an actual cell biologist, your understanding is based on the differences you discovered in the appearance of the cells.

The game mechanisms and the science are chosen to blend together perfectly. This is what makes POMT unique. This is what makes POMT a giant leap forward for learning games. Cell biology is a science of visual observation. Cell Biologists study the appearance of cells under various conditions. The appearance of chromosomes at various stages of mitosis, for example. POMT’s mechanism allows the player to participate in the science, to be a cell biologist. The blending of game mechanism and science is achieved in a way that few games attempt and none have yet achieved.

Learning/Game Experience of discovery. Using the game tech to create the feeling of discovery.

I have spent many an hour at the microscope. I have spent day upon day preparing samples for the microscope, spent quiet solitary hours reading about how to take advantage of the microscope, how to make sure my images are accurate and not just over exposed, out of focus artifacts, and I have spent months deciding what I want to look for in the first place. Should I look at cells at the early stage or late stage of wing development? I have felt seasick from watching the brightly lit microscope slide slip back and forth in front of my eyes in the pitch black room, the whole world rotating around my head while I look at a magic, intricate forest of cells stacked on cell, glowing proteins packed into a endless crowd of protein. With limited time only three short hours before hunger, seasickness and the next microscope user drive me from the darkness, I have wasted many precious minutes focusing on beautiful sights that are irrelevant to my data but are gorgeous sights a visitor just can't fly past and ignore. Sure, the basic structure of the Human hand has been described, but so has the Grand Canyon and the surface of the Moon. But the thrill of discovery is still hanging in the air. The wonder, the awe, the joy of just being a part of it is still there like electricity.

Naturally, this is the aspect of cell biology every cell biologist wishes to share with every non-cell biologist. Science is an exciting game. But how can we share the thrill of discovery, the beauty, the intricacy of the system with someone who does not have a reason to go to the microscope? We must let the player experience the challenges and the rewards of exploration themselves, but let them have rewards much faster than in real life. The Powers of Minus Ten app does this beautifully. The app is a balance between discovery and work. Directions are not necessary to get to all of the details, so the work load is low. But some amount of trying and failing is required to make the app zoom in, to make the app tell me what I am looking at: and this simple trying and trying, this feeling of "working" is the perfect balance to the thrill of discovery that you get when you see something neat, touch it and its name pops up. You really feel as though you did some work, noticed something with your own observant eyes and learned what it is. You feel like a scientist.

Science. Richness of the knowledge gained. The best reason for a learning game is to let us interact with a world that we can’t see or experience otherwise. The world of cells and molecules is invisible to us. The surroundings of a cell are hard to imagine. But once we zoom into the hand, we can see for ourselves how some cells are farther from the blood vessel, how some cells are surrounded by stem cells that seem simple and boring and other cells are surrounded by cells going through mitosis. The POMT is an immersive textbook, it is a world we can enter, it is an advanced learning tool that gives us context and interesting details that we can build an understanding on.

In POMT Cells and Genetics learning is centered around the relative size of objects and is focused on a hand. While some things are explicitly written for us, much of the learning is accidental: The sight of blood cells flowing single file, the number of skin cells in the scene compared with the number of blood vessels… The number of stem cells vs. number of cells in a phase of mitosis. Deep questions and conversations arise while playing.

POMT is a game design dictated by the science. Not science pasted onto a game. When simple game based excitement might feel like it is lacking, POMT creators filled it in with science, art and the thrill of learning real science. Science is an exciting game.

SCORECARD



POINTS CRITERIA Fun Challenge and Reward Balance Tutorial 1 Are the game instructions blended well into the game play? If tutorial is separate, is it fun, brief, engaging? Mastery 1 Is the game play explained well enough that I can tackle new levels and new situations with intuitive ease? Balance 1 Is mastery of the controls and game mechanism worth the reward the player gets? Technical 0.8 Are game controls, user interface, screen size appropriate and does the game work on its intended device? Levels 0.8 Is the story or additional levels an attractive force to keep me playing? ______
4.6

Learning/Game Experience of discovery Meaning 0.9 Must the player master the learning objectives to successfully beat the game?
Is the game mechanism consistent with the learning expected?
Replayability 0.6 Does the player feel the urge to play again? Upon playing again, is there more to discover?
Can the player start at different points, save their game? Mechanism 1 Does the game play enhance the concept learning?
Does the game teach a high number of concepts per minute of time invested? Motivation 1 Do I learn more, discover more details or reach new levels of skill by playing more? Score 1 Is there a score? Are points awarded for learning related activities?
Is success measured in another way, such as level reached, time required to finish, etc?
______
4.5

Science Richness of the knowledge gained Accuracy 0.8 Are the facts presented accurately? Are the graphics, situations, characters etc. presented in a realistic and relevant way, given the focus of the game.
Models 0.8 Are the models or metaphors created in the game useful for understanding the concepts and interpreting new data on the topic? Discovery 1 Is the knowledge gained in a rich manner or is it a digital vocabulary list? Does the player explore, learn Effective 1 Does repetition, problem solving, additional game levels, built in assessment work toward making learning most effective? Thinking 0.5 Are any thinking skills gained, such as data interpretation, problem solving, guessing, estimating, etc. ______
4.1

                    13.2    Total Score out of 15

Fun rating: 5 out of 5

Learning rating: 5 out of 5

Science rating: 4 out of 5

Total:

13 / 15

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