Scuba Adventures: Philippines- coming soon!

 Coming soon to Oculus Go, Google Play and iTunes!

Coming soon to Oculus Go, Google Play and iTunes!

In Scuba Adventure, you’re a marine biologist racing against the clock to tag marine creatures before your oxygen tank runs out of air. Navigating an underwater world, you will accomplish five distinct missions. This game was created by our award-winning team that includes a practicing marine biochemist! Check out the preview video here!

This game evolved from the more than 1000 students who have playtested BioDive and asked if they could buy parts of the VR experience already. As we told them at the time, we are still deep in beta testing mode, but we decided to whet the appetites of our players with this standalone game!

 PlayNYC attendees demoing Scuba Adventures:Philippines

PlayNYC attendees demoing Scuba Adventures:Philippines

Scuba Adventures has been shown at MineFaire and PlayNYC, and we will be demoing it at the Intentional Play Summit, Maker Faire and the Submerge Festival in the next two week! We are thrilled with the response so far and look forward to seeing more people play with it too.

 Minefaire attendee came back to play several times!

Minefaire attendee came back to play several times!

 

 

Reflections from our Software Engineer Intern: Isaac

 Starlyn and Isaac exploring Mandë's lab during their first week

Starlyn and Isaac exploring Mandë's lab during their first week

When I was in high school, a teacher once asked my class, “what do you think the secret to getting a job is? Internships, internships, internships!” And every summer in college I would apply for an internship, confident and hopeful in landing one. After almost four consecutive summers of applying, I finally achieved it. The stars finally seemed to be aligning for me. Was I finally seeing my teacher’s generic advice come to fruition? One could only hope.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern as a software engineer at Killer Snails LLC. I applied for this  opportunity through the Tech Talent Pipeline residency program at my school, CUNY Lehman College. I remember right before the interview hearing my name being called and then the company name. “..You’re up next..with…Killer Snails!” I went in unsure of the challenge but also confident and as myself. None of my peers mentioned if they interviewed with this company. I had no idea what I was in for. But it was there I met my future bosses, the lead developer Chris, and the CEO and co-founder Jessica.  Our interview lasted for around forty minutes to an hour. Everything I learned about the company made me interested and hopeful to work there. They mentioned games for education, bringing science to kids outside of the classroom, virtual reality. I was sold. But did I sell myself well enough to them? A few weeks later, my co-intern Starlyn and I got an email from the CEO Jessica, We are so thrilled to have you interning with us!” I was ecstatic. I got my first tech internship.

These past three months have developed not only my technical and soft skillsets, but also paved a clearer career path for myself. Every Tuesday I attended team meetings at the Weill Cornell Medical College in the office of Dr. Mandë Holford, an amazing scientist and member of the team. I attended Games for Change, a conference where I learned about games with positive-impact and how to apply for grants in tech (and attended Jess’ talk on the game startup industry); and MineFaire, where I demoed the new Killer Snails VR game to kids and families at MineFaire, where I networked with other game developers and teachers in the industry.

 Isaac overseeing playtesting at MineFaire

Isaac overseeing playtesting at MineFaire

My teacher’s advice on internships is still relevant, especially with my graduation next spring fast approaching. But I consider myself very lucky to have been able to work with the Killer Snails team. I have not only become a more confident software engineer in the workplace, but sharpened my abilities in a start-up environment. I’ve improved my skills in back-end development through learning different JavaScript libraries like jQuery UI, and server-side languages like PHP. I faced challenges as well. Prior to this internship I was a beginner in PHP and jQuery UI. I recommend all startup interns to barrage your supervisors with questions (sorry Chris and Jess). Most important of all, I honed my skills in receiving and giving critical feedback. We all tested and reviewed the new VR game that KS has planned for release soon. Providing my insight on the game made me a more confident team-member in meetings and developer standups. But that’s the most I can share about this bold, new game from Killer Snails. Thank you Chris, Jess, Lindsay, Noelle, Mandë, Carlos and Starlyn. Stay killer.

-Isaac Atif

 Starlyn, Chris, and Isaac at the end of the internship

Starlyn, Chris, and Isaac at the end of the internship

Killer Snails Goes to Camp

 Teacher educator Rycki Waldeck watches as campers discuss their strategy for building biomes.

Teacher educator Rycki Waldeck watches as campers discuss their strategy for building biomes.

The summer heat isn’t slowing down team Killer Snails! This week we traveled to the Flat Rock Brook Camp in New Jersey. We met head counselor, teacher educator and super-mom Rycki Waldeck at MineFaire a few weeks back and she thought that Biome Builder would be the perfect companion to the "wild watersheds" themed week of camp.

Campers launched into game play, building thriving biomes and connecting the wild card “rain” to the growth of flourishing ecosystems. Game play also ignited a host of conversations around how healthy watersheds sustain plant and animal life. 

 (front) Campers quickly master Biome Builder and (back) get a sneak peek at Scuba Adventures.

(front) Campers quickly master Biome Builder and (back) get a sneak peek at Scuba Adventures.

Lead developer Christopher shared Killer Snails' latest Virtual Reality game, Scuba Adventure. In this underwater adventure, players raced to tag organisms across different trophic levels each with their own point value. Some campers scored in the tens of thousands by the end of game play and everyone was excited to hear that they could play again when Scuba Adventures launches this September for Oculus Go, iOS, and Android users.

Campers weren’t the only ones in for surprising science discovery. When team Killer Snails arrived at Flat Rock Brook Camp a beautiful monarch larva was preparing to pupate. Within mere minutes we watched as the larva transformed from a black, yellow, and white striped caterpillar into an emerald colored pupa!

 Now you see it....

Now you see it....

 ...now you don't!

...now you don't!

The next couple of weeks are going to be busy in Killer Snails Land as we prepare to launch Scuba Adventures on three different VR platforms this September, continue to playtest our upcoming VR adventure BioDive, and prepare to receive yet another shipment of our inaugural tabletop game Assassins of the Sea that is officially out of stock!

Reflections from our Software Engineering Intern: Starlyn

Hello everyone! My name is Starlyn Urena Ventura, and I am a Software Engineering Intern on the Developer team at Killer Snails for the summer of 2018.

 Killer Snails Interns Starlyn and Isaac tour Dr. Mandë Holford's lab during the first week

Killer Snails Interns Starlyn and Isaac tour Dr. Mandë Holford's lab during the first week

Over the past 8 weeks I had the opportunity to join Killer Snails as a Software Engineer Intern-my first internship at a tech company through the Tech Talent Pipeline. After living in New York for the past 9 years, my first summer was spent working with smart people in a professional environment. During my time being an intern, I was treated with the same respect as any other team member, but also with the same notion of working hard and dedication as everybody else. I have been granted the pleasure to work closely with the Co-Founder Jessica Ochoa Hendrix and Lead Developer Christopher Pollati to build an online digital journal.

At Killer Snails I worked on the implementation of the online digital journal, an educational web application for students to develop a love of science. My project involved developing a user friendly interaction while at the same time being educational for everyone. There were many issues I faced during my internship and there were times I didn’t know how to tackle some of those problems. Something I learned was that there are always people that are willing to help, if you are willing to ask even outside of your team. Most of my work this summer has been focused on some important features to be released this fall including building the ability of cross browsing and multi browser compatibility into the digital science journal.

 Starlyn, Christopher and Isaac at the end of the summer

Starlyn, Christopher and Isaac at the end of the summer

 

Over this summer I have become a better engineer and programmer. Working close with Christopher at Killer Snails this summer is quite special, the importance of teamwork, continuous learning outside of the classroom and workplace, have made me grow as a professional. There are many things which you can only imagine how they work, but can’t fully understand until you have hands on experience.

Play NYC

This weekend, an amazing event took place… Play NYC!

 The family that dives together... thrives together!

The family that dives together... thrives together!

Over 160 indie game developers came together to show our work and it was a jubilant crowd. The room was packed with people on both days and we had our youngest ever player stop by!

 Baby VR face!

Baby VR face!

 

We saw game developers we knew like MaryMartha, who created the Ultimate Clapback- a fast paced, hilarious social card fame, and we met new friends, like the team behind Unicornelia- a game that the Killer Snails crew particularly enjoyed!

 Jessica felt quite sparkly as a unicorn!

Jessica felt quite sparkly as a unicorn!

One of the best aspects of the weekend was the sense of community that permeates the NYC indie game scene. Everyone was eager to share their work, offer feedback and we played a lot of new games like Host VR, Radical Spectrum (currently running a Kickstarter campaign!)  and Wicked Apples.

Our game designer, Noelle Posadas, was interviewed on Twitch (watch her starting at 1:11 here!) along with loads of other great designers and we were lucky to be near the stage to see the interviews. Highly recommend watching all of them to get the backstory on these games and learn how to play.

We owe a HUGE thank you to Dan, Peri and the Playcrafting crew- these incredible people put so much hard work into finding a beautiful venue and filling it with fantastic game-loving people.

The whole Killer Snails team is already excited for next year’s Play NYC because NYC makes awesome games!

 Chris and Yuliya setting up before the first people entered Play NYC

Chris and Yuliya setting up before the first people entered Play NYC

Designers in Residence Showcase at NYSCI

 Our residence at the New York Hall of Science comes to an end.

Our residence at the New York Hall of Science comes to an end.

Yesterday, Team Killer Snails attended the final showcase of the first class of Designers in Residence at the New York Hall of Science. We were thrilled to be part of this cohort along with Jaehyun Kim, who created some fascinating augmented and virtual reality with her team, Jan Mun, who led field expeditions with her Explainers to see the bioremediation of the SuperFund site Newtown Creek (and made some fun Mushroom Burritos!) and Brooke Singer who worked for six months with her Explainers to develop and build Coral Sponge, a study of varying plant mixtures in raised beds to determine the capacity for carbon sequestering in the soil.

Our Explainers, Sam, Yulia, Leah, and Kumari, spoke eloquently about what they learned during the three-month long program. They spoke about walking through NYSCI to identify exhibits that they wanted to revitalize and exhibits that they wanted to explain further to visitors. After choosing specific aspects of the museum and discussing the interconnectedness of the exhibits, our Explainers outlined how they worked as a team to design and develop a tabletop game and a digital game using the museum’s resources.

 Kumari, Leah, Yuliya and Sam shared their highlights and takeaways

Kumari, Leah, Yuliya and Sam shared their highlights and takeaways

After all of the Explainers shared details of their 3 and 6 months residence, they had a showcase and demonstrated their games.

As you can see, Team Digital was rightfully proud of what they created!

 Yuliya and Sam show off "NySci Adventure" right before game play began.

Yuliya and Sam show off "NySci Adventure" right before game play began.

Everyone loved playing "Think Quickly" with Team Tabletop!

 "Think Quickly" is a fast-paced, funny game- as can be seen here!

"Think Quickly" is a fast-paced, funny game- as can be seen here!

Our three month experience isn't truly over yet- we will continue working with our Explainers to complete and publish the game- something we will definitely write about more!

We want to thank Liz Slagus and Erin Thelen as well as all the staff at NYSCI for this fantastic opportunity. Our team definitely benefited from the process of creating two games with a team of young, passionate science educators.

Killer Snails HIGHLY recommends the Designers In Residence program and you can apply for it right here!

 The Explainer created signs for each game!

The Explainer created signs for each game!

 

 

Snails at Minefaire!

This weekend we had a fantastic opportunity to take part in MineFaire- an offshoot of Minecraft. Thanks so much to Steve Isaacs for the opportunity! We were incredibly impressed with the children we met who played Biome Builder and Scuba Adventures with us.

 Playing Biome Builder!

Playing Biome Builder!

 

Some of the friends we made were experiencing virtual reality for the first time and others seemed like pros! As a reminder, if you’re interested in trying out our Virtual Reality at your school in the tri-state area, we are happy to bring it to you!

 A young man's first VR experience!

A young man's first VR experience!

 

We were thrilled to meet educators from a dozen schools and to meet other game developers, like Brian and GJ from The Sheep's Meow in our space. The speakers we heard from the stage and the competitive Minecraft building were both incredibly impressive.

 Searching underwater

Searching underwater

 

We hope to see many of you this coming weekend at Play NYC where we will be showing both Biome Builder and Scuba Adventures again. Please stop by booth 14 on the Main Floor and say hello!

Killer Snails Invade Serious Play

 Our beautiful trophy!

Our beautiful trophy!

Earlier this month, the Killer Snails team had the opportunity to show off Biome Builder at the Serious Play Conference in DC. As the Serious Play Gold Medalist in education we were thrilled to play Biome Builder with the attendees at the game night.

 Playing Biome Builder!

Playing Biome Builder!

We also had the pleasure of meeting many of other award winning game developers including the teams at Catlilli Games and Box Games. Both these companies won medals for their educational games- Box Games won for their history game Mill Makers and Catlilli won for their game Crazy Cats. We had the opportunity to play Crazy Cats which is a great game that demonstrates how genetics works while getting to draw some crazy cats. We also had the opportunity to play Biome Builder with some wonderful kids, parents, designers, and educators.

 Dr. Lindsay Portnoy speaking on partnering in game development with cultural institutions

Dr. Lindsay Portnoy speaking on partnering in game development with cultural institutions

Our Chief Learning Officer Dr. Lindsay Portnoy also spoke at Serious Play about how to partner with cultural institutions as game developers. Working with cultural institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History or the New York Hall of Science can be a great way to develop new games or places to test and iterate on design. After the talk, the team had the opportunity to chat with cultural institutions like the Ford's Theatre and National Geographic

Thank you, Serious Play, for putting together such an informative and engaging conference! We are always happy to share our games and work, and this conference was a great opportunity to meet with like-minded people and share ideas on how to improve not just our games, but also society as a whole.

 

 Dr. Lindsay Portnoy, chief learning officer and Noelle Posadas, game designer

Dr. Lindsay Portnoy, chief learning officer and Noelle Posadas, game designer

National Science Foundation Video Feature!

 So thrilled to see this poster when we arrived!

So thrilled to see this poster when we arrived!

We had a fantastic, educational time at the National Science Foundation Phase II conference and we are so honored to share a video that was made featuring our work!

During the conference we learned more about growing our business, what others are doing in the field and some fascinating facts about products using spider silk

We will add a new post including some of the lessons learned, but we wanted to share this video right away!

Biome Builder Wins MORE awards!!

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We are SO THRILLED to announce that Killer Snails won the International Serious Play Gold Medal! The full press release is here, and we are among some excellent company!

Lindsay, our Chief Learning Officer, and Noelle, our Game Designer, will be attending the Serious Play Conference that takes place July 10-12 and Lindsay will be leading an awesome and informative panel on Thursday, July 12. If you are around DC, please come join us!

We also received the Seal of Approval from the National Parenting Center! They posted a wonderful review of us here and our favorite part is "The game will absolutely stimulate conversation, and everyone will learn something they never knew."

Thanks again for all your support!

 

2018 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Recipients of the Year!

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 5.59.02 PM.png

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), New York District Office, named Jessica Ochoa-Hendrix, Mandë Holford and Lindsay Portnoy of Killer Snails LLC  as the 2018 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Recipients of the Year!

We were thrilled to receive this honor! The full press release can be found here, and here are a few more pictures of us at the ceremony at Times Square.

 Mandë, Jessica and Lindsay were delighted to accept this honor!

Mandë, Jessica and Lindsay were delighted to accept this honor!

The ceremony was wonderful and included honors for companies that we knew already like the Charter School Business Management (Jessica has known these great folks for 9 years now!) and  companies we met for the first time like Incausa, a small social enterprise that acts as a pro bono mediator for Indigenous productions, connecting their trade to the international market without profit share. 

Killer Snails Demonstrates BioDive at Ed Lab!

 EdLab staff asked great questions

EdLab staff asked great questions

We were incredibly fortunate to have the chance to show our beta version of BioDive at Columbia’s EdLab. EdLab is a research, design, and development unit at Teachers College, Columbia University. EdLab envisions and pilots knowledge projects for a fundamentally different education sector that is attuned to the emerging post-industrial world. EdLab engages in work that has the potential to contribute to the improvement of educational institutions today and the broader evolution and reconfiguration of future educational services.

 Jessica happily describes the Killer Snails difference!

Jessica happily describes the Killer Snails difference!

 

About 30 people came to hear Jessica and Lindsay talk through the way we are developing our virtual reality experiences and the associated activities. We discussed our end goal, what we've created to date and how we were getting user feedback from both students and teachers on a semi-weekly basis. 

 Lindsay describes our playtesting

Lindsay describes our playtesting

 

The Ed Lab staff filmed our presentation and shared it here:

https://vialogues.com/vialogues/play/43673/info

Please watch and let us know what you think!

Almost ready for our close up!

It’s hard to believe that this Friday marked our 11th week as Designers in Residence at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI). While we’ve been lucky enough to spend a great deal of time in the halls before this experience, working with Explainers as they designed and prototyped their learning games was truly an extraordinary experience.

 First getting to know our Explainers

First getting to know our Explainers

 

As a quick recap, our four intrepid Explainers began the experience with the singular goal of making the exhibits even more engaging to museum visitors. Yuliya and Samantha drew inspiration from visitors engagement with digital media within the halls and worked to create a digital game to guide and extend visitor inquiry throughout each hall, beginning with the Search for Life exhibit. Sam and Yuliya used their experience interacting with visitors to turn their idea into gamified experience and are ready to start playtesting their first digital prototype (below)!

 Team Digital showing their new game!

Team Digital showing their new game!

 

Kumari and Leah were inspired by the interconnectedness of multiple exhibits and set to work creating a tabletop game where players seek to identify attributes of items found throughout the museum. Using science savvy, game mechanics, and learning science they were able to scaffold the game to be both bilingual for Spanish speakers as well as able to meet multiple levels of players from novice to experts by both age and the number of visits. Having successfully play tested paper versions of their tabletop game team tabletop (Leah & Kumari) are creating a more solid prototype that they’re ready to continue play testing for user feedback (below).

 Team Tabletop preparing a new prototype!

Team Tabletop preparing a new prototype!

 

We’re almost ready for our close-up and would love to see all of you when we reveal these two exciting prototypes and the process behind their games at NYSCI next Friday at noon. Come hear from the brilliant Explainers and team Killer Snails about designing learning games to captivate science learners and who knows...maybe come up with a new game idea of your own? We hope to see you there!

NSTA Recap: Ceilings that Leak and Friends so Unique!

 Fellow National Science Foundation SBIR grantees!

Fellow National Science Foundation SBIR grantees!

This year’s NSTA National Conference in Atlanta brought together over ten thousand science educators from across the country and Team Killer Snails was lucky enough to spend time with friends both old and new! Our first day included a wonderful reunion with friends from The PocketLab and NeuroTinker, two fellow NSF SBIR grantees whose games are bringing learning out of the lab and into the hands of students worldwide.

Throughout the conference we met with science educators from across the country and learned a few new tricks too. We learned from industry titans like NOAA whose educator Stephen Zepecki gave a talk about three tools for making weather data approachable and engaging in the classroom and folks from Vernier who demoed their tools for making force visible.

 Delighted to see so many awesome attendees!

Delighted to see so many awesome attendees!

 

Imagine our surprise when we discovered that our neighbor was Chris Kessler of Kessler Science fame, and our delight when Diana Allen, of Maine NSTA President & infographic fame and Tom Robertson of Explore Learning descended upon our booth for a visit!

 Learning from the ceiling leak!

Learning from the ceiling leak!

Science expertise was on parade at the expo with the folks behind @NGSSphenomena not missing a beat to question the structure, function, scale, and system of the tarp that would later render the exhibitor hall uninhabitable due to an indoor rain storm. The ceiling leak became even more epic thanks to the PocketLab sensors (that also did a stellar job of graphing data from NASA’s Human Gyroscope). And OCEARCH’s own Lindsay Laughner came by to see our latest tabletop game, Biome Builder. We were all enamored by her gorgeous necklace by artist Brooke Kahnani whose art directly benefits OCEARCH.

 

Another great conference is in the books for Team Killer Snails, we can’t wait to see our friends again soon. Until then, you can come play our latest VR adventure with us at the New York Hall of Science this Wednesday from noon until 7 p.m.

Toy Fair Extravaganza!

 Lead Game Designer Noelle is waiting to greet attendees!

Lead Game Designer Noelle is waiting to greet attendees!

Attending Toy Fair was an amazing experience for Team Killer Snails! We were fortunate to be in the Launchpad space where we were near many other awesome companies- including game companies, indie fan book publishing, empathy building resources and more!

Matthew Meatball was across the aisle from us and tossing the Meatball back and forth was a great wakeup activity each morning. Matthew Meatball teaches children about empathy- a fantastic anti-bullying resource created by a teacher from Georgia!

 MaryAnn Bruno of Matthew Meatball

MaryAnn Bruno of Matthew Meatball

Holly Preston is the founder of A Fan for Life which was the colorful booth across from us- the lovely Canadian family was quite popular with the hockey and football books created for loads of teams.

 Holly and Marcela in their lovey booth!

Holly and Marcela in their lovey booth!

 

We really enjoyed learning about Sylvia’s math game SMS = Infinity which includes multiplication, division and memory. She is a 15 year teacher from Maryland who has created a tabletop and a digital version of the game. 

 Sylvia with her three products!

Sylvia with her three products!

Math 4 Love offered two games that were both highly engaging and developed by former math teachers. 

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Having never attended previously, we weren’t sure what to expect and it was a bit overwhelming- we are still not sure we were able to see all the exhibitors. However, one of Jessica’s favorites was the PonyCycle- a ride on animal that the rider powers by bouncing up and down- and yes, it is available for adults!

 CoFounder Jessica found her favorite toy!

CoFounder Jessica found her favorite toy!

After the four days were over, Team Killer Snails left feeling excited to build new relationships with the many people we met at Toy Fair and we're already looking forward to next year!

Project Planning for Game Development

 Storyboarding a digital scavenger hunt interface!

Storyboarding a digital scavenger hunt interface!

A big part of completing a project successfully lies in planning the path. Today at the New York Hall of Science, the Explainers and Killer Snails started the day by discussing the topics we had covered during our first month: Science Communication, Intentional Learning, Game Design and Game Development. We revisited the prototypes that the four Explainers had created with us for both a tabletop game similar to Slapzi and a digital scavenger hunt style game. After a brief discussion, our four Explainers divided up into two groups- Team Tabletop and Team Digital.

We spent the next hour working together to create a Google Spreadsheet starting with our end goal- two polished prototypes to exhibit on April 20th at the culmination of the NYSCI Designers in Residence program. Working from that date, we made a plan for all the steps needed to be taken during the next two months including: gathering visuals, making paper prototypes, iterating through playtesting, practicing the presentations with other Explainers and detailing what departments at the museum would need to sign off on particular aspects.

 Diligently building a spreadsheet to plan the future

Diligently building a spreadsheet to plan the future

 

By the end of the day, Team Tabletop and Team Digital had a clear plan and an associated Killer Snails team member to mentor them in each topic! The two teams began storyboarding and listing the exhibits they needed to visit together and what work they would accomplish during their own worktime at the museum. We are so excited to see what they have produced by next week!

 

DiR Week 3: The path to Game Development

 Our awesome NYSCI Explainers!

Our awesome NYSCI Explainers!

 

Earlier today our lead programmer Christopher Pollati and I (Noelle Posadas) had the privilege of speaking with our NYSCI Explainers about the ins and outs of game development. These young women came prepared with questions about what it takes to join the world of game development and we offered our years of experience as examples of how to break into this competitive industry. As someone in the game industry, I love to offer my experience as an example of how someone with a non-conventional background can become a game developer. All of our Explainers are currently studying various science disciplines in college, but are all interested in game development. 

I graduated from Pratt Institute in 2010 and wanted to become a children’s book illustrator, but after graduating I fell into a career as a 2D artist at a mobile game studio and eventually progressed into a UI/UX designer and now I’m the award winning game designer of Biome Builder (COUGH COUGH BRAG). I want our Explainers and every other young person in college struggling to make their degree into a career to know that you don’t need all the answers now, that your degree should never act as a block from doing what you want. I also strongly suggest to anyone considering a career in games to reach out to their local gaming communities. Here in NYC we are lucky that there are wonderful groups like Playcrafting, General Assembly, and IGDA that provide classes and networking opportunities. 

Even though Chris always knew he wanted to do game development, he didn't take a super direct path; he transferred colleges and majors along the way. After graduating from college, Chris found himself working at a variety of educational, graphic design, and then finance companies before going back to school. He switched schools three times before graduating Bloomfield with a Game Design Programming major. He loves it so much he has been teaching students to be game developers at Bloomfield for nine years now!

Chris and I also had the opportunity to explain different types of games, not just digital and tabletop, but interactive play (i.e. Hide and Go Seek). So often when we think of games we think of experiences that happen on a screen or over a game board, but so many of the first games we play involve little more than a group of friends and an environment. After discussing a few of our favorite interactive games like Sardines and Manhunt we brainstormed ways of making the museum an interactive play space. Hopefully this session will help to inform our DIR project and become an interactive way of connecting the exhibits in our favorite museum, the New York Hall of Science. 

DiR Week 2: Science Learning and Connected Exhibits @ NYSCI

  Left to right: Yuliya, Kumari, Leah, Samantha, & Dr. Holford

Left to right: Yuliya, Kumari, Leah, Samantha, & Dr. Holford

Exhibits + Games + Venom + Ira Flatow @Science Friday = An amazing week two as Designers-in-Residence at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI)! In a whirlwind day, Explainers heard from marine biochemist Mandë Holford, cognitive psychologist Lindsay Portnoy, played learning games, continued to map the museum, and ended the day with a prototype of our very first co-created game.

The Explainers started their day learning about the extreme creatures of nature that inspired the work of marine biochemist and Killer Snails Chief Science Officer, Mandë Holford. Watching a  video of the cone snails hunting elicited a slew of inquiries from the Explainers: How were these creatures discovered? Do all cone snails hunt in the same way? Can they hurt humans? Are scientists trying to make medicines that numb pain?

With more questions than answers, Dr. Holford explained how different cone snails make different venom cocktails and characterization of the peptides in the venom cocktails are what scientists are using to create palliative treatments like ziconotide (Prialt) and a newly discovered recently patented peptide by the Holford lab. Explainers were eager to learn more about how these deadly snail assassins can create an incredible mashup between biology and chemistry fueling Holford’s scientific inquiry.

The discussion turned into a series of eager inquiries as Dr. Holford explained how venoms vary from poisons: Venom is transmitted when you are bitten, whereas poisons are transmitted when you take a bite of a deadly creature. For example, the cone snails use a radular tooth to harpoon venom into their prey the prey is bitten. In contrast, a newt’s poison is ingested by an unfortunate predator like this frog who takes a bite of the rough-skinned newt despite the newt’s attempt to warn predators with his red underbelly. After launching us into a fun game of “Bite or Bitten?” Holford left to share this new way of explaining venom versus poison with NPR’s Ira Flatow on this week’s episode of Science Friday.

 Concept mapping the museum

Concept mapping the museum

Last week, the Explainers and the Killer Snails team identified different ways exhibits from Sports to Connected Worlds work to engage visitors. The Explainers noticed crossovers in the content found in various exhibits such as the similar landscapes in Search for Life to that of the Connected Worlds. Revisiting the content in our map this week launched the group into a discussion about how the physics in the Sports exhibit is deeply connected to the content in Mathematica. Together, we revised and honed our huge concept map and headed to lunch with our cognitive wheels still turning.

  From left to right: Kumari, Yuliya, Leah, and Samantha played a game of Slapzi

From left to right: Kumari, Yuliya, Leah, and Samantha played a game of Slapzi

After lunch, team KS shared some favorite games with the Explainers including our latest game Biome Builder. After playing a few different games Explainers launched into a lively conversation with Dr. Portnoy about how games are a perfect canvas for learning. Together we explored how the game mechanics, or ways in which players interact with a game, can help teach content. For instance, the climate change card in Biome Builder forces players to move their hand of cards to the player on their left, demonstrating the forced migration as a result of a change in climate.

 The NYSCI Explainers playing Biome Builder

The NYSCI Explainers playing Biome Builder

Inspired by mapping interdisciplinary science across the museum and game play, team KS and the NYSCI Explainers had a eureka moment and launched into a fast and furious game design experiment. Weaving together the many exhibits shed light on new ways to show the interconnectedness to visitors. For the rest of the afternoon we worked together to co-create and play the first prototype of a fast-paced and hilarious game connecting the myriad exhibits at NYSCI.

 The Explainers prototyping a NYSCI game

The Explainers prototyping a NYSCI game

By the end of the day the Explainers were uber proud of their incredible work translating science and learning into a prototype for a new game. Stay tuned to see how our draft game plays out in week three when Killer Snails designer Noelle Posadas and developer Christopher Pollati work with Explainers to bring our new science game to life!

Mapping Microbes, Migration, Mathematics, and more….

 Kumari, Yuliya, Leah, and Samantha- Explainers at the New York Hall of Science

Kumari, Yuliya, Leah, and Samantha- Explainers at the New York Hall of Science

On Friday, team Killer Snails spent the day with four extraordinary Explainers from the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) as we launched our Designer in Residence program. Together we walked the halls of NYSCI, moving from exhibits such as Search for Life to Wild Minds and everywhere in between! We spent our time together documenting all of the interactive experiences and rich science on display at NYSCI while looking for opportunities to make the exhibits even more engaging to visitors.

  Samantha (left) and Leah (right) show off their brawn and their brains racing and talking about aerodynamics and speed while Yuliya (left) and Kumari (right) take note of the engaging aspects of this exhibit.

Samantha (left) and Leah (right) show off their brawn and their brains racing and talking about aerodynamics and speed while Yuliya (left) and Kumari (right) take note of the engaging aspects of this exhibit.

The Designers-in-Residence (DiR) program has been created to infuse innovation and current design principles, thinking and insight into NYSCI’s Science Career Ladder. During their residency, DiRs will participate in public programs and be paired with a small group of two or three Explainers. DiRs come to NYSCI to engage with museum culture, explore our resources, and work with their Explainer partners. The goal of the program is for the DiR and Explainer teams to test ideas with the public, develop new work or new components of existing projects, and introduce different perspectives into the way NYSCI presents information and engages with our multiple publics.The four stellar Explainers who will be working with Killer Snails include: Yuliya who is a Physics major at City College, Kumari who is studying both biochemistry and psychology at Hunter College, Leah who is double majoring in Law and English at John Jay College, and Samantha who is studying biology and art at Hunter College.

After several years working as Explainers at NYSCI, each of these bright young women brings a unique perspective to the interdisciplinary exhibits on display. While reflecting on our first day together Samantha noted that, “It was refreshing to be among my peers, discussing problems with a new spin! It felt great to dive deeper into museum content and take different perspectives.”

The friendly folks at NYSCI were all so warm and welcoming. During the day we met many new faces including Wren, a science researcher at the museum who taught us about bird tubes used by scientists studying migratory birds.

 The Explainers with Monte, the AV Supervisor

The Explainers with Monte, the AV Supervisor

Our peek into the 3D theater introduced us to Monte Melnick (above), who supervises all the audio visual needs for NYSCI, and who is a a celebrity in his own right as former tour manager for 22 years for the Ramones as well as the generous donor behind the World’s Fair exhibit which displays his own tickets and paraphernalia from the historic event. Monte even invited our crew on a behind the scenes tour of the theater complete with a visit to the studio to see how 3D films are shared with NYSCI audiences.

 Sharing notes and ideas for the exhibits at the end of the day.

Sharing notes and ideas for the exhibits at the end of the day.

We ended our day with a thoughtful analysis of the exhibits we had visited as seen above. We can't wait until next Friday when we continue our work alongside NYSCI Explainers and together build new ways of engaging visitors through play.