Project Description

Video games are often cast in a negative light. Thought to increase aggressiveness and violence, video games have only recently been used for their educational purposes. Companies like LeapPad are taking advantage of video game style learning by embedding phonics and basic math into games on a toddler proof tablet. Their website declares that 97.9% of teachers say the tablet helps students learn.

The concept of learning through gaming is commercially available for younger children. There are very few educational games for students beyond elementary school largely due to older children having access to regular non-educational video games which they deem more fun. Video games go beyond the typical PlayStation system. They include and are more frequently used as apps on smartphones or tablets. In the game system world, boys are the majority users but use within game systems and apps have no majority group in terms of race or gender. Equality of access is important when teaching because there is a gap present in STEM education.

The connection between gaming and teaching computer science is the basis for this project. Initially, the idea of solving the gender gap in STEM by using an interactive game came from a lecture from Shahnaz Kamberi at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. The talk outlined Kamberi's study which consisted of a gender specific Sims-esque game that taught girls age 13-17 basic concepts in Java using the Eclipse IDE. Both the control group and the game group had almost identical results. Girls had an increased interest in computer science and average scores for the pop quiz were approximately the same.

This project intends to adapt Kamberi's research to better fit students of color and create a larger increase in skill between the control group and the game group. First, the project will teach Python. Java is a difficult first language and Eclipse is not easy to work with on every computer. In addition, Python is preloaded on Raspian in a Raspberry Pi. Therefore, students will have less expensive option for programming. Instead of a Sims style game, this project will focus on a caretaker based game. Similar to games like Petz Puppyz for DS Lite, Tamagotchi and NeoPets. Caretaker games allow the user to feed, clothe and play with their pet and are immensely popular for our target audience of girls age 13-17. The expectation is that by harnessing the power of an already established style of game and embedding coding lessons within the gameplay girls will learn more than a typical lecture and garner a greater interest in programming.

Background Research

  1. Carmichael, C. (2014, October 10). The Female Perspective of Computer Science: Games to Get Girls Interested in Programming, and Animation for Music and Dance Games / GHC14. Retrieved May 16, 2015, from
  2. Kamberi, S. (2014, August 18). Ed Tech and Beyond by S. Kamberi: My Research on Developing a Game to Teach Java Programming to Girls ages 13 - 17 Years. Retrieved May 16, 2015, from
  3. Kamberi, S. (n.d.). The Four Es Model for Increasing the Number of Women in Computer Science. Retrieved May 16, 2015, from
  4. Kamberi, S., Palma, E., Hebda, T., & Mcgonigle, D. (2013). Board 178 - Program Innovations Abstract How to Use Virtual Environments to Promote Multidiscipline Learning by Creating Educational Healthcare Simulation Projects (Submission #754). Simulation in Healthcare: The Journal of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, 8(6), 448-448. doi:10.1097/01.SIH.0000441443.10638.91
  5. LeapPad Ultra reviews: 98% of teachers recommend kids tablet. (n.d.). Retrieved May 18, 2015, from

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