England's University of Hull has turned the universally popular computer game Minecraft into a way to teach biochemistry to children.
Students at the University have built a Minecraft world they are calling MolCraft, which will introduce children in a "fun and engaging" to what most young students see as boring biochemistry topics like the structures of chemicals and proteins.
Molcraft will be available as a free download for the PC edition of Minecraft and will feature a range of molecular protein chains built using the game’s familiar blocks, along with chests full of virtual “goodies, puzzles and quiz books” to provide additional needed information.
Funding for the creation of the game came from the Royal Society of Chemistry. Researchers Joel Mills and Mark Lorch say the Hull University students that created the game, want to see it used in as many schools as possible. They are "making it available as part of the MinecraftEdu library of worlds and mods for teachers".
They say the initial thought behind Molcraft was to make it in such a way that even the most anti-biochemistry kid would find it interesting.
“MolCraft is a world where the majestic helices of myoglobin rise above you. Where you can explore this massive molecule and its iron centre that carries oxygen around your muscles. Or, if you prefer you can fly down a pore through which water molecules normally flow across cell membranes”, say Mills and Lorch.
"In MolCraft, anyone can explore the building blocks of these incredible natural nano-machines. You can discover how just 20 chemical building blocks can result in the astonishing diversity of structures and functions that are required to hold living things together.”
Minecraft has been used to engage children with scientific topics before. In 2013, Google partnered with MinecraftEdu and Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, to develop qCraft to introduce young students to quantum computing, with blocks coded to show superposition, quantum entanglement, and observer dependency.