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Fixing the education digital disconnect one video game at a time

WASHINGTON DC On Thursday, 22 May 2008, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) will launch Immune Attack TM, an exciting, fun and fast-moving video game that teaches the critical scientific facts of immunology.

The cutting-edge game is designed to teach how the immune system works to defend the body against invading bacteria. The visual elements and simulations are critical for grasping the complex interactions of the biological systems.

My students were very engaged while playing Immune Attack, said Netia Elam, AP Biology Teacher at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, VA. The video game provides great visuals and allows the students to interact while playing the game. The kids really wanted to master the game and to do that they needed to learn the immunology concepts. (to see video of Elam please visit:

Immune Attack is a complement to the learning that happens in the classroom. The game allows students to use sights, sounds, and touch to get better acquainted with the immune system. It also encourages them to interact with each other and have problem-solving discussions to enhance their game-play and ultimately learn the subject.

Preliminary surveys show that the students who play Immune Attack show an increase in knowledge when compared with students who did not play the game. After playing the game students also showed a higher interest in biology.

"Immunology is a complicated subject to learn. The challenges in Immune Attack give those who might not otherwise be interested in biology the chance to learn in a fun, hands-on manner they won't find in a text book," said Michelle Lucey-Roper, director of the Learning Technologies Program at FAS.

FAS is researching and developing ways to produce complex games and 3-D interactive simulations that will one day revolutionize education and how people learn. These learning games help students and workers learn globally competitive skills in demand by employers.

Computer games hold special interest to a generation who has grown up with them and show promise as educational tools. Here at FAS, were using games to better understand which features can be used to improve learning and to develop guidelines based on that research, said Henry Kelly, FAS President.

FAS will use Immune Attack with teachers and students across the U.S. to research how to improve the design of games for learning and how they may be used to encourage students to consider careers in bioscience, medicine and other health care professions.

Games increase motivation, but it is not entirely clear why. For example, games typically include competition - either against a human opponent or a computer-generated one. The research challenge is to determine how these features contribute to learning, said Kelly.

FAS's interest in games emerged from research that shows advanced learning technologies, such as video games and computer simulations, can help address one of the nation's most pressing needs -- strengthening education and preparing workers for 21st century jobs.

Immune Attack builds on insights from FAS's Learning Science and Technology Research and Development Roadmap, the FAS report "Harnessing the Power of Video Games for Learning", and the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust (DO IT) -- a proposal to transform learning and training for the 21st century. These recommendations have been incorporated into the House version of the Higher Education authorization bill which FAS hopes will be passed by Congress.

Immune Attack was created by FAS in collaboration with teams of game developers, instructional designers, immunologists, teachers, and learning scientists including Brown University, the University of Southern California, and Escape Hatch Entertainment.

To celebrate the premier of Immune Attack, a launch party will be held on Thursday, 22 May 2008 from 6:00 8:00 pm. The event will take place in the AAAS Auditorium and 2nd floor at 1200 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC (at 12th and H Streets). This FAS event is free, but space is limited.

Speakers include:

  • Henry Kelly, Federation of American Scientists

  • John Cherniavsky, National Science Foundation

  • Bob Hirshon, American Association for the Advancement of Science

  • Merrilea Mayo, Kauffman Foundation


The game will be released at the reception on Thursday, 22 May 2008, from 6:00 8:00 pm in the AAAS Auditorium in Washington, DC.

To RSVP for this event, contact Monica Amarelo at or (202) 454-4680. Please include your name, title, and media affiliation in your response.

Advance interviews are available upon request. To schedule an interview or photo opportunity with Henry Kelly or Michelle Lucey-Roper, please contact Monica Amarelo at or (202) 454-4680. Also Netia Elam of Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, VA, and students from McKinley Technology High School in DC are available for interviews in advance or on-site.

The game will be available in advance and during a demonstration in the AAAS 2nd floor atrium.


Contact: Monica Amarelo
Federation of American Scientists

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