Icon for: Seth Cooper


Northeastern University


NSF Awards: 1212940, 1652537

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12, Undergraduate, Graduate, Adult learners, Informal / multi-age

Nanocrafter is a game about science, puzzles, and, most of all, creativity!  Nanocrafter is a synthetic biology game created to educate and entertain players while assisting scientists. Synthetic biology - using biological components to create nano-scale mechanisms - is a relatively new discipline with a wide variety of applications in biotechnology and medicine. Because the rules of the game simulation are based on the scientific rules of DNA interactions, solutions that players discover in-game can become candidates for validation in the lab.  As players progress through the game, they learn how to utilize DNA strand displacement reactions to construct a variety of mechanisms that will assist them in solving the increasingly complex puzzles. Already, thousands of players have played and submitted hundreds of solutions to the weekly challenges.

Nanocrafter presents the intricate world of DNA biochemistry in a simple, approachable way.  Players are treated to simple shapes and colors that intuitively illuminate the underlying scientific rules of the system. Crisp animations and tutorials help turn stochastic biological processes into straightforward game mechanics. Subtle hinting for possible interactions keep players from getting stuck without creating a cluttered screen. Clear objective pieces keep players focused on their goals.


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