My name is Enrique Cachafeiro and I have been an educational innovator for a little over a decade. I was a classroom teacher and technology facilitator for 8 of those years, and now I am a Training and Education Coordinator with Duke Health. My specialty is using gamification and VW/VR for instruction and training. The intent of this build was to try to recreate the immersion and engagement of an educational escape room in a virtual environment so students could learn about a topic, in this case, enzymes, in a fun and interesting way. Additionally, I wanted to see just how device agnostic I could make it. I was also seeing how robust Amazon Sumerian was as I look for a platform that I can bring to other educators as an easy tool for them to make their own builds, without a coding background.
What it does
The Room of Keys challenges users to be observant and unlock information about enzymes, then use that information to solve puzzles and challenges on the way to escaping the room. Here is the full walk-through: https://youtu.be/jf9lWnP4TC4
How I built it
Escape rooms have already been used in school for education. They are fun and engaging ways to make a topic interesting. The problem is the room and materials needed to build one. I took that idea and I applied it to a virtual space, using Amazon Sumerian. That's the origin of the design behind the build. Then I used my own years of teaching experience to come up with the specific activities that would reinforce the topic of enzymes. I relied heavily on The Amazon Sumerian tutorials, YouTube videos and Slack channel for help. Special thanks to AWS-Jake.
Challenges I ran into
At first I wanted to use all of the robust capabilities of Sumerian, including hosts. But since part of my goal was to make the activity accessible to as many students as possible, I need to keep it mobile-device friendly. I also sacrificed on the quality and quantity of lighting and textures to keep lag down.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
I am very happy with what I achieved. The activity has a number of parts, but still manages to work even on medium to low grade mobile devices, making it available to nearly any classroom with WiFi. At the same time, it can also be used in high end VR devices, making it much more immersive. Also, considering I made it by myself, it is a full activity, with lots of interaction. I think that validates the concept of it being an accessible platform to many users, not just programmers.
What I learned
Amazon Sumerian has proven itself a powerful tool for educators and trainers to produce their own educational experiences. There are a few more features that I would add, such as multiuser access, but other than that, I feel like this build has given me enough to allow me to promote it at conferences with confidence.
What's next for Keys and Locks: A lesson on enzymes
From what I learned on this build, I would like to make other similar builds but without such obvious exposition. I would like to weave the information into more of a story, and add narrative. I also would like to find ways to link such experiences together. Next year I will devote myself to conferences, showing the build and retelling my experience, as well as collecting data from using it at several schools to show how well it works in instruction. Armed with that, I want to promote the use of Amazon Sumerian as a cost-effective, accessible, easy to use platform for Education.