The Fluid Ether could be a great addition to a unit on fluid dynamics in a middle school or high school science class. Because the game is instantly responsive to users’ actions, it would work well with students taking turns while others look on and give feedback. Users can also create their own levels, and teachers could encourage students to build levels to demonstrate a certain concept or to perform a certain task.
Be aware that the game’s end “reward” may be a bit of a letdown: it’s the equation for drag. Teachers might instead create their own rewards, perhaps with a contest for students’ original level designs. Also, students don't always intuitively see the connections between written concepts and their experimental observations. Before students play, teachers should preview the key terms and concepts for them so they can further solidify these connections.Continue reading Show less
The Fluid Ether is a physics game where students use jets to move objects through fluid in an animated aquarium. Players move through levels that focus on concepts like density, size, and drag, as they pertain to fluid dynamics. By completing tasks in each level -- like gathering coins or breaking blocks -- players move on to “challenge” levels that test their mastery of each concept.
Navigation in the app is intuitive, and the design is elegant; touch the stars at right to learn about the tasks required for this level. As players complete more tasks, they gain access to new levels, as well as new “bonus info” offering further insights on fluid dynamics. Students can also create their own levels using any of the pre-loaded elements and using any tasks from an extensive pre-set list. These levels can be saved to the iPad or published for other players to try. The game includes several opportunities to link back to the developer’s website, which has even more activities on the same subject.
As a sandbox-style exploration of fluid dynamics, The Fluid Ether succeeds in a number of ways. The Drag Challenge level exemplifies its best features: Students aim five jets to guide a ball through a maze. After an unsuccessful try, when students hit the Reset button, the jets stay in place, allowing students to reassess their strategy and tweak the jets accordingly. Students can make deliberate, clear progress toward goals, and the game is rewarding and engrossing as a result.
Unfortunately, the physics concepts aren't integrated into the game as seamlessly as they could be. For example, the term drag isn't defined until all of the Drag levels are complete. Often, the only text students see appears when the game is paused; it’s possible to play without ever encountering these helpful instructions. The information pages are engaging and informative, but there’s no guarantee that all students will see them, let alone reflect on their implications. While gameplay seems appropriate for elementary and middle school students, some vocabulary is too sophisticated. And while a high school physics class might be familiar with higher-level concepts, middle schoolers might be mystified by a statement like “F does NOT equal ma.”
Key Standards Supported
Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.
Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.
Key Standards Supported
Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object’s motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object.
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