Saturday, 24 November 2012

Print 2 - Bacteriophage

Well I printed my MinecraftEdu bacteriophage model today, it took about 3 hours to do, and came out pretty cool. I did manage to break it while taking off the support material around the 'stem' however a bit of acetone and it 'never happened'.

For some reason the model is hollow, I am not sure whether that was a print setting or the actual model itself, more investigation required. I recorded the print and sped the footage up 500X, that is shown below.

The next thing to print is my DNA model, but I am having a bit of trouble adjusting the model using WorldEdit. I have managed to make it 5 times larger in both the x and z axis, but I cannot seem to get it to do it in the y direction (up). I have asked for some help, so hopefully someone will have an idea of how I can get it to do what I want. This will allow me to make each Minecraft block the equivalent of 0.2mm in real life, which should make a pretty cool looking model. It will also allow me to have 0.2mm gaps in between the parts that need gluing.

That is all, more updates coming as I get further along.

Friday, 23 November 2012

First Print.

My printer finally arrived today, so I spent a nervous 30 minutes or so setting it up, getting my head around what I was doing and then printed off the 'recommended' first print from, a rabbit. Below is a slideshow of the pictures I took while I printed it. Since then I have tried printing a glider from thingiverse, unfortunately I broke the glider as I pulled it off the build platform, so I am reprinting it right now.

The rabbit was about 70g of plastic, I think I made the mistake of printing it without support, but I am getting my head around the settings of the software more as I use it. It took about 2 hours and 30 minutes to print and there are some slight malformations in the overhangs of the tail, chin and ears. I am not entirely sure who was more enthused about the printer and the rabbit coming off it, me or my 2 year old daughter. I think unfortunately almost everything I print while she is around will be hers, not mine.

I have been messing around with some other models I have downloaded from thingiverse and the maximum print time I have managed to come across is over 9 hours, and I am not quite comfortable leaving my printer running over night just yet, so another time.

My next job is to redesign my DNA model to take advantage of my new printer, the different coloured plastics and when I print I will take video footage and do a timelapse of the print process.

That is all for now, thanks very much for reading.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Plague Inc Reviewed.

Well today, after a week of 'playing' Plague Inc in class, most students had 2-3 periods of gametime and had enough of an understanding of the concept behind the game to have the discussion I have been heading for since we began.

Below is the audio recording of the lesson (it goes for just over 30mins), slightly edited to remove silences and interruptions but here is a quick summary for those who don't have the time to listen to the whole thing.

- Students could see the connection between the 'strategy' they used, the selective pressures and therefore evolution.

- Students didn't 'learn' anything new, but it did help reinforce what we had already talked about and improved their understanding.

- Students felt that the time spent was worthwhile in terms of their learning.

- Being a 'real' game made it more interesting than a 'learning environment' like my cell map in MinecraftEdu.

- Coming soon to my Biology class: Pocket Frogs to discuss inheritance.

Feel free to comment below, I would be very interested in any feedback on the lesson audio and 'teachable moments' I may have missed.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Plague Inc Evolution.

Well I am sitting in my Biology class again and today I have 6 of the 7 students that were here on Friday, the others are sitting another Maths exam. Of the 7 students that were here 5 went home and bought the game and have been playing it over the weekend. As I write this they are trying to kill the world with their various plagues on 3 different devices.

We had a brief discussion about the selection pressures on their plagues and decided that there were 3. The pressure to spread, the pressure to kill and the pressure of cure. If any of these imbalances the whole thing can collapse. So over time as the plague you need to evolve to stay on top of these changing pressures. This is evolution, now the timeline on this simulation is small in terms of evolutionary time scale, but when you compare the reproductive rates it make sense in terms of human evolution.

And so they began, they are trying to compete with eachother to see who can kill the most and the quickest. 1 group has already been discovered, while the others are trying to hide as much as possible before getting spotted.

So by then end of todays lesson I am going to get the students to write a small report on what they learned by playing this game, no matter how minor. I am wondering how easy it would be to 'script' simulations and also whether there would be benefit in that, or whether the idea of justifying each decision in terms of evolution and selective pressures would be best.

Still in class, and each group has completed one game, only 1 group was successful in eradicating humanity. For the second game I am making them write a justification for each decision they make in the game so that we can tie it to the selective pressure they are responding to.

Class is coming to an end, and I have got to say I would do this again. Getting the students to justify their strategies and what decisions they make has been very powerful, and I think that the discussions that are going to come from the notes they took are going to allow the students to build a great understanding of the theory of evolution.

One very scary quote to finish from a young lady in my class. "It's too late, you're already dead"

Friday, 2 November 2012

A Different Game.

Well I had a class of 7 students today as many of my Biology class were sitting their final exams for another subject. We are currently studying DNA, mutations and evolution all in a combined sort of way. So instead of 'wasting' this time today I thought I would try something a bit different.

I have been playing Plague Inc from Ndemic Creations on my iPad lately, and I think it has some decent potential to help me teach some of the concepts behind mutations/DNA and how these impact the process of evolution. So I gave the group my iPad and let them have a go at playing the game. For those of you who don't know the game the idea behind it is you are an infectious disease and to win you need to wipe out the entire world population.

So I told them they were a fungus and their job was to survive and destroy humanity despite their best attempts to cure the disease. You can choose where to start, so pick a country but you need to talk with eachother and come to an agreement. This started a pretty interesting discussion about where the best place to start was. In the end they decided on southern Asia because of high population density and a wet climate.

Then we discussed the options they had to mutate their fungus, including special abilities, symptoms and transmission characteristics. I left them discussing what they needed to do to effectively infect more people in Asia and then move into other countries.

One student wanted to give those infected the nausea symptom, another student responded with "No, that will probably make us discovered" and another with "Yeah I think we want to spread first then". Now mutations happen randomly throughout the game that gives the disease various symptoms.

At some stage either the students or the game mutated the symptom pneumonia, this allowed them to be discovered by the humans and they started working on a cure, very slowly of course. So I 'paused' the game and had a bit of a discussion about whether that mutation was a good thing or a bad thing, was it going to help them survive? The response was "It helped us spread faster, but got us discovered, so probably more con than pro."

The game continued, they infected almost the entire population and started evolving ever more deadly symptoms. This prompted humans to speed up the research to try and cure the disease. The game ended with the humans finding a cure, after the fungus had wiped out about half the worlds population.

So to wrap it up I asked them what they would do differently next time (and many said they were going to go home and buy it) here are their responses.

"Pump up the stuff that makes it spread"

"More symptoms made them try to cure us more"

"Infect the whole population, then kill them all"

"Make the disease like a dormant one, get everyone infected, then start killing"

So in one lesson I think the students have a very good base for me to discuss selection pressure and evolution. Thanks to Ndemic Creations for actually making the game. As always thanks for reading and please feel free to comment below, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this one.