Toronto – Spongelab Interactive has earned its third major international award – first prize in the Interactive Media category from the Journal of Science and National Science Foundation’s 2009 Visualization Challenge. This is the second consecutive year which has seen Spongelab Interactive named as the winner.
Spongelab Interactive’s Genomics Digital Lab (GDL) is an integrated on-line learning environment where users experience the world of biology through discovery-based learning. GDL (version 4) is currently being used in over 50 countries around the world, illustrating a demand for new technology-based and game-based teaching tools. Spongelab continues to promote the use of immersive learning technologies to school boards and districts across Canada to increase funding commitments for the use of leading-edge interactive digital learning tools in their secondary schools and in the mean time plans to continue to keep costs minimal for individual users and classrooms. “At the high school level, one of our biggest problems across North America is that enrollment in science & math is tanking, especially among girls,” said Dr. Jeremy Friedberg, one of the founders of Spongelab Interactive. “Well-designed educational games are an amazing way to reconnect with students in an engaging and relevant way.”
GDL, was developed as the first part in a series of modular, curriculum-aligned games and interactive simulations covering an array of topics in biology. To meet the needs of students, teachers, and schools, GDL is designed to be fully accessible online from home or school through a web browser, with no downloads, or installation, and provides teachers with class management tools and integrated real-time assessment. Built around a custom learning environment, GDL employs rich, high-quality- 3D graphics designed to captivate and immerse users in the biology they’re studying.
Encompassing varying levels of difficulty, one of the many games engages students in a discovery process to ‘save’ a dying plant by identifying the correct air, light and soil conditions. GDL is built around discovery-based and self-directed learning where users are highly engaged and learn by ‘doing’ and by “playing the biology.” For example, students can choose to feed their plant water, salt water, vinegar, or soda to discover the impact on their plant: will it flourish or shrivel?
In other games, students use their imagination to come up with an “artificial leaf” or they can learn about how plants are the source of our food, fuel and everything in-between. ‘Transcription Hero’ allows students’ to take on the role of an enzyme to transcribe DNA.
Montreal – Twelve months ago, Montreal mom Michelle Skamene was unhappy about the fact that her two boys, then aged 8 and 9, spent very little time reading. Video games and computers were too much competition for their books. She and her husband, Emmanuel Greciet, decided to put a system in place whereby their kids had to earn TV or game console time by reading: 1 minute TV time for every minute of reading. An IT consultant working in field of website design, Mrs. Skamene set up a program for them to log their reading and TV time to help everyone keep track.
When friends asked if they could use it for their own children, Mrs. Skamene expanded the website to allow parents to set up their own rewards for their kids, and included a number of mini-games and features that the children could activate by reading and reading alone. The kids loved it, and it worked! They are no longer the reluctant readers they once were. “The thing is to get them started. We just needed that little extra motivation to get the ball rolling, and turning their TV time into a reward was the key. Once they made reading a regular part of their routine, and found books they liked, the incentives, really, were no longer necessary.” says Mrs. Skamene, who also created a page to help kids choose the right books.
The basic concept is simple. Children log on to the site, and add information about their reading (what, when and how long for). An interface with Amazon.com’s databases makes this easy. Email notifications get sent to their parents, who must validate the entries via a simple click. This allows the children to earn points (“RR Miles”), which they can redeem for fun and sometimes-silly things on the site. Children also connect to their friends, thus being able to share valuable information about their reading. When they read, they can also play mini-games together in a Fun and Games section. All of this actually makes reading ‘cool’, and has been a great reading incentive in pilot groups so far. Access to the site had been restricted, but it is now finally open to the public.
Teachers can also join and set up groups, targets and rewards for their classes. When kids join the group, they all share centralized book lists, book reviews and reading logs. A great reading incentive in the classroom, Reading Rewards is a fun, safe, and free social network for kids built around reading and encouraging reading that also features tools for teachers and librarians available in both French and English.
Quebec City – Sarbakan has announced the release of Lazy Raiders, available exclusively on Xbox LIVE® Arcade. Lazy Raiders is the first “world platformer,” which combines innovative-gravity spinning gameplay with classic platforming action. Featuring full Avatar integration, Avatar awards and 80 addictive levels, Lazy Raiders is set to become one of this year’s hottest downloadable games.
In Lazy Raiders, players embark on a challenging quest to help lazy treasure hunting Dr. Diggabone retrieve the 16 Lost Relics that will endow him with instant fortune and glory. Gamers control their “Lazy Raider” by rotating and flipping the game world, allowing players to collect gems and grab the desired relics while avoiding getting crushed, pricked, and flattened by traps and enemies.
“With Lazy Raiders, we wanted to create a compelling twist on a classic genre, updated with enhanced graphics and a creative utilization of game physics,” said Guy Boucher, President and Creative Director of Sarbakan. “The launch of Lazy Raiders on Xbox LIVE Arcade marks an important step for Sarbakan as we expand our attention towards original IP development for the PC and console market.”
* Help Dr Diggabone or send your Xbox LIVE Avatar — his assistant — on a dangerous quest to grab the 16 Lost Relics.
* Move your “Lazy Raider” by rotating and flipping the game world, allowing your character to navigate mazelike passages, avoid traps, and outwit enemies.
* Rotate and flip your way through 80 mazes spanning 3 unique locations across the American continents.
* Take control of gravity and set environmental traps for your adversaries.
* Over 11 hours of mind-bending gameplay.
* Unlock exclusive explorer Avatar awards for your Xbox 360 Avatar.
* View all of your collected relics in the in-game treasure Vault.
Calgary – Furries and Geezers and Fatties! Oh, my! Defend hotties from a motley crew of nerds while making love connections. Hottie Hookups is a whole new kind of time management game for the iPhone & iPod touch created by the designer and programmer behind the #1 iPhone game Sally’s Spa.
Developed by Blue Unit Studios and published by BigStack Studios, Hottie Hookups is the best way to tap hotties on the iPhone & iPod touch. Draw lines to connect hotties dancing on a variety of trendy dance floors. Once you’ve hooked up the hotties, defend them from a variety of nerds by flicking, tilting, or shaking them off. After the hotties have had enough time to groove together, send them away in a taxi to continue the party!
“Building on our time management experience by incorporating elements into Hottie Hookups from other genres such as line drawing and castle defense was not only challenging, it was a lot of fun as well,” said Craig Rushforth, lead programmer for Blue Unit Studios.
“Hottie Hookups is our take on dating, and combines multiple gameplay elements together with a funny, non-politically correct theme,” said Dan Kratt, lead designer for Blue Unit Studios.
“Hottie Hookups represents a milestone for us as we continue experimenting with unique styles of gameplay and creative concepts,” said Jon Lam, founder and CEO of BigStack Studios. “We’re confident that iPhone and iPod touch users will enjoy Hottie Hookups for its original humor and engaging gameplay.”