ACT Teams Work Together For Big Win in Game Study

The name of the game was collaboration this spring when ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning and ACTNext teamed up to conduct a study of collaboration  with middle and high school students in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids school districts. The project focuses on the cross-cutting capabilities of collaborative problem solving in ACT’s Holistic Framework which has been a research focus for ACTNext since its inception in 2016. ACTNext’s role was putting together the game features and data analysis and the Center helped organize the ground game by connecting with schools to line up students and arrange locations for the research.

“ACTNext and ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning share a common sense of purpose — we both want to leverage innovation to close gaps in equity and opportunity. And we also bring together different, complementary strengths that are more powerful together than they would be separately. Working together we were able to bring ACTNext’s creativity and technical expertise in creating the ‘Crisis in Space‘ simulation into the hands of a diverse set of students in local schools with which the Center has an ongoing relationship,” Jim Larimore, chief officer said.

The project is based on a two-player game, “Crisis in Space.” In the game, mission control engineers communicate instructions to astronaut operators who must solve puzzles to avoid asteroid collisions and deploy satellites from a spaceship orbiting Mars. Following 40 minutes of play, students completed surveys about the game experience. After completing two game sessions, all players were presented with a gift card and participation certificate at their schools.

“CEL’s valuable connections to area schools enabled us to attract a large and diverse group of students to participate in this study. It’s fitting that inter-departmental teamwork played such a key role in a project designed to study collaboration skills and we’re excited to continue this partnership,” ACTNext AI/ML Director Saad Khan said.

Over the next few months, ACTNext will produce research using natural language processing, eye-tracking, and other data analysis and machine learning techniques as a result of this initial study.

The ACTNext communications team produced a podcast about the collaboration and discussed the teamwork with Pravin Chopade, research scientist II, ACTNext, David Edwards, lead data scientist, ACTNext and Lew Montgomery, program director, ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning. Listen to the podcast by clicking below.