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The National Geographic Society, with
support from Lockheed Martin, has
created two exciting online games for
middle school students—Challenge:
Robots! and Challenge: Asteroids!
The National Geographic Society, with support from Lockheed Martin, has created
two exciting online games for middle school students—Challenge: Robots! and Challenge: Asteroids!
The goal of Challenge: Robots! http://education.nationalgeographic.org/game/challenge-robots
is to expose young people to exciting careers in engineering, specifically in the field of robotics.
By working through three challenges, your child will learn important concepts about not only the
engineering process but also the main parts of a robot, how those parts change with the problem
the robot is intended to solve, and basic robotics programming.
Challenge: Asteroids! http://education.nationalgeographic.org/game/challenge-asteroids
engages youth in completing three missions—designed to help them learn the differences
between near-Earth objects like asteroids, comets, and meteoroids and some of the tools used by
aerospace engineers to study objects in space. The game is used as a springboard for inspiring
a deep understanding of engineering concepts, with a specific focus on asteroids and the field
of space exploration. Players think about why we study asteroids, and they explore the potential
benefits of asteroids.
Using interactive games to facilitate learning has a number of recognized benefits. For most students, games
are highly engaging and motivating. Games provide real-time feedback and built-in goals—such as “leveling up”
or reaching a desired conclusion—that motivate students to improve. The Challenge: Robots! and Challenge:
Asteroids! games are built around a series of engaging educational challenges that encourage students to selfidentify as engineers and practice the engineering process. The games are used as a springboard for inspiring
a deep understanding of engineering concepts, with a specific focus on the science of robotics and space
As a mentor, you can bring both your professional background and your interest in supporting student learning to
your mentoring situation—heightening the game playing experience. One important goal of the games is to expose
students to the field of engineering and introduce them to the engineering design process. Tell the student you
mentor about what you do as an engineer and how you got interested in engineering as a career.
Another way to expose students to more engineering role models is to have them listen to male and female
engineers talk about their jobs and why they love them. Show some of the powerful interviews with engineers
found at the NatGeoEd.org website. Look for them in the “Cool Scientists” section of NatGeoEd.org/mysteries.
Also, check out the resources on the Engineers in the Classroom website www.classroomengineers.org, including
“Build the Future,” a dynamic video about engineering careers; Engineer Guides for use with both games; and a
variety of hands-on activities that complement the science and engineering principles used in the games.
Enhance students’ fun with, and learning from, the games with these ideas.
Whether your student is a novice or experienced game player, playing the game together provides an excellent
opportunity to share, engage in conversation, and have fun together. The missions and challenges in the games
level up in difficulty from orientation through the final challenge—giving you a chance to engage youth throughout
the process, encourage them when the game gets tougher, and learn together. Because the games involve several
levels of challenges, you will not be able to complete all levels in one sitting. Each game can be saved at any
point; players use a passcode to come back and begin where they left off.
To help structure the learning during the games and your classroom activities, as well as to create a keepsake for
students to remember the experience, have students create “Engineer Journals” to hold their notes, sketches, and
ideas about the activities they complete in the game and in classroom activities. Students can use a regular, spiralbound notebook to take notes and create their drafts of activities. Ideas for using the journals:
Designate one page toward the back of the journal to record new terms and their definitions.
Reserve the inside cover of the journal as the place to tape or staple a copy of the ID Cards students earn
during the Orientation level in the games.
Title one of the first pages in the book “Why Engineers Use Journals.”
Have your student use the journal for making notes and sketches throughout the activities.
As your student plays the games, engage him or her in talking about what is happening in the game. Use the following
prompts to keep the attention on learning
What are you doing right now?
What step of the engineering process are you working on?
For Challenge: Robots!: Tell me about the robot you are exploring. How is it different from other robots? Why does it
need to be different?
For Challenge: Asteroids!: When you built your ship for this mission, what choice did you make? Did you try something
different and have to start over when it didn’t work? What changes did you make?
Engineers in the Classroom: http://www.classroomengineers.org
EngineerGirl: http://www.engineergirl.org
Nat Geo Engineering Exploration Challenge: http://education.nationalgeographic.org/engineering-exploration-challenge
Nat Geo Robots 3D Education: http://education.nationalgeographic.org/robots-3d-education
Nat Geo Asteroid: Extreme Mission: http://education.nationalgeographic.org/asteroid-mission-extreme
DiscoverE hands-on activities: http://www.discovere.org/our-activities
4H Robotics Club: http://www.4-h.org/get-involved/find-4-h-clubs-camps-programs
Project Lead the Way, the nation’s leading STEM curriculum: www.pltw.org
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