Career exploration game encouraging creative middle schoolers to visualize their future in STEM

How might we make STEM careers more appealing & accessible to an underserved middle school audience?

Though gender achievement in STEM topics is at parity through early high school, as girls approach college they are less likely to pursue advanced math & science classes or declare STEM majors than their male counterparts.

Current interventions like extracurricular camps or clubs have multiple barriers to entry for underserved STEM populations, including time, finances, and motivation.

As Product Lead, I led an initial discovery process around existing products and services, children's motivation to engage in STEM learning, and children's mental models around career development to inform our design.

Prototyping to Learn

My research revealed an opportunity to advance a new perception of STEM among middle schoolers beyond their uninspiring school lessons: that building these skills will unlock exciting, creative futures. My project partner and I hypothesized that a mass-market web-based game focused on accessibility and entertainment would be a way to reach new minds.

We storyboarded and prototyped a concept video of Sparkville, our STEM apprenticeship game.

"Is this a real game? If this is ever published I would love to get it. I would pay money for it."

Testing in the Wild

I tested the concept video with four Pittsburgh middle schoolers. In the session students took a pre-survey, watched the concept video, took a post-survey, and participated in a followup discussion.

While students affirmed the value of career learning and showed great enthusiasm for the game, their post-survey responses indicated room for the game to more explicitly tie STEM concepts to featured challenges.

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