A recent global literacy survey that evaluated geography, cultural, and demographic knowledge found U.S. students between 18 and 26 who attend or have attended a two- or four-year college in the United States, had an average score of just 55 percent—a failing grade in most U.S. classrooms. We thought that some of this knowledge could be acquired through gamification and offered at a slightly younger age group, targeting Middle School students, but also suitable for adults.

What it does

Cross Country is presented as a state-based trivia game that begins in an east coast state chosen randomly by game mechanics. After selecting the level of difficulty desired, the player is required to answer one or two questions per state correctly, before they can advance westward. Each time the player successfully completes a state they must choose an adjacent state to continue their journey until they reach the west coast state selected by game mechanics for that round. If the player gets three answers wrong in an attempt to successfully complete a state, they will be penalized and sent back east of their current location to a state they have not completed. Game mechanics will also randomly cause other penalty events to occur including a vehicle mishap requiring roadside assistance or a natural disaster such as a tornado, hailstorm, or wildfire. If one of these penalty events occurs, the player will be forced to return east to a state they have not completed unless they have purchased disaster insurance. They also have a one-time ISP option of purchasing an airline ticket to the state of Missouri, by-passing all states east of that location.

How we built it

Cross Country was built with the VoiceFlow development platform. Trivia questions and answers were entered into Google sheets representing each state and these sheets were accessed using VoiceFlow's Google API interaction block. Gamification was added using Javascript accessed through VoiceFlow's code blocks. SSML was applied to all questions and answers on the Google Sheets, and speech responses to player choices and penalty occurrences in VoiceFlow's Speak blocks. Phonemes were also crafted for any words not pronounced correctly by the Matthew Polly voice selected for the project. Graphics, both still and video, were produced for all states and player selections using third party graphic editing software. APL was accomplished by adjusting JSON templates provided by Amazon. Sound effects were selected from the Amazon Sound Library except for a sound effect created by mixing Creative Commons sound clips from in the Audacity sound editing application. ISP functionality was created using VoiceFlow's ISP interaction tools. Collaboration on game design and task progress were discussed using Google Hangout, a private Facebook Group, and Facebook Messenger.

Challenges we ran into

Content: Selecting question topics that would be interesting enough for our targeted age group to compel them to continue the game and researching "wrong" answers that would be logical (but incorrect) alternatives.

Programming: Evaluating penalty conditions and integrating penalty navigation as well as integrating images when navigating from state to state. In addition to these, implementing ISP was a new endeavor for all of us, and it presented several challenges on the way to skill certification.

Team Collaboration: As team members reside in significantly different time zones, coordinating a Google hangout was challenging. All team members also have other fluctuating responsibilities that also proved challenging when attempting to project task completions.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Working as a team and sharing creative ideas in a supportive environment. Also, developing a skill that has the potential to be fun, engaging, and educational!

What we learned

One thing we learned was how to identify each other's strengths and delegate tasks accordingly.

What's next for Cross Country

Adding more questions; Adding bonus rounds for Alaska and Hawaii with scavenger hunting aspects; Adding printable takeaways such as state graphics on trading cards or stickers that can be applied to a printable US map. Adapting model to other geographic regions like Canada, Europe, Asia, South America, Adapting model to history focus using history facts and vintage cars.

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