Teaching meteorology and technology through an iPad application

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014: 1:45 PM
Room C109 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
David Harrison, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and A. Balfour, M. Beene, and A. McGovern

We have developed an iPad application, called Storm Evader, to demonstrate to youth how technology can be used as a tool and to teach youth about weather and its impact on real-world activities, including flying. As technology becomes more widespread in modern society, many young people overlook the usefulness of technology and have instead come to see it primarily as a provider of entertainment. Inspired by the popular game Flight Control, Storm Evader exposes children to these other uses of technology in an engaging way. The game requires players to route planes across the United States while avoiding dangerous storms and conserving fuel. Players are aided by suggested routes around the storms provided by the A* pathfinding algorithm. To maximize their scores, players should take into account the computer's suggestions. Players are exposed to actual radar data and aided by computer generated forecast models and storm outlooks from the Storm Prediction Center. In the future, we will include a turbulence model. Constant subtle exposure to useful applications of technology should provide children with an understanding that technology can be used as aid in complex tasks and performs more functions than simply entertainment. The exposure to the variety of weather forecasts and the use of them in the game introduces children to new weather concepts. The application has begun to enter an alpha testing phase and has had positive responses so far. Improvements from last year include the use of actual forecast models and outlooks.

Over the year, we have redesigned the gameplay to become more interactive. Rather than drawing flight paths before the game day begins and then only being able to watch the result, players are now able to redirect planes in mid-flight. More planes also spawn throughout the day, giving players even more reason to stay alert. At any time, a player can instruct a plane to follow an automated path that considers both the expenses of plane damage and the cost of fuel. Children also have the options of Freeplay and Career Mode. Freeplay allows players to choose a specific day and other options, while Career Mode is a series of levels that become more difficult. Career Mode also allows players to use their cumulative profits in a store, which will include different kinds of planes and jets to be used in the game.

The application has begun to enter an alpha testing phase and has had positive responses so far. Results of testing on groups of children will be presented in addition to the game.