Public Release:  Immune Attack sheds light on the molecular world

Teen video gamers acquire immunity

Federation of American Scientists

SAN DIEGO, CA--While most American students have an intuitive grasp of popular music, professional sports, and consumer electronics, they lack a basic understanding of cell biology. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) developed the video game Immune Attack to plunge 7th - 12th graders into the microscopic world of immune system proteins and cells. Immune Attack is a three-dimensional video game that provides a place to gain an understanding of cellular biology and molecular science, according to an FAS expert who will be discussing the game evaluation during the 2009 ASCB Annual Meeting, taking place December 5 - 9, 2009 in San Diego, California.

The mission in Immune Attack is to save a patient suffering from a bacterial infection. In the game environment, proteins, molecules and cells behave as they do in nature, as well as the actions such as the capture of white blood cells by proteins on blood vessel walls. Melanie Ann Stegman, PhD, a program manager at FAS will discuss the results from the ongoing evaluation of Immune Attack.

Stegman will discuss her collaboration with teachers to conduct controlled evaluations. The evaluation tests students' knowledge of biology and immunology, their comprehension of game dynamics, and their confidence in the material. For example, results find that students who play the game show significant gains in confidence with the molecular science-related material and gains in their knowledge of cell biology and molecular science.

"Our most exciting results demonstrate that Immune Attack players appear more confident in their abilities to understand a diagram about white blood cells than students who did not play Immune Attack, said Stegman."

Stegman will present her latest findings during a poster session (Program 2356, Board B733) on pre-college and college science education on Tuesday, December 8, 2009, from 11:00 am - 12:30 pm PST in Exhibit Halls D-H of the San Diego Convention Center. A reporter roundtable related to the poster session is set for 10:00 a.m. PST on the same day.

"The amount of detail about proteins, chemical signals and gene regulation that these 15-year-olds were devouring was amazing. Their questions were insightful. I felt like I was having a discussion with scientist colleagues," said Stegman.

Stegman also uses Immune Attack to inspire high school computer programming classes to create videos games.

"Basically, Immune Attack is cool. After playing the game, or even after just watching the trailer, high school programmers are extremely motivated to create video games of their own based on the premise of a cell-sized submarine called a Microbot," said Stegman. "This motivation kept McKinley Technology High School students asking intense questions while they developed 2-dimensional Microbot games using Game Maker. The desire to create a realistic game made these kids active and engaged students of molecular biology."

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Melanie Stegman, Ph.D. is the program manager for the Immune Attack game development project at FAS. Stegman has 10 years of laboratory research experience and brings an in-depth knowledge of cell biology, protein and lipid biochemistry, and molecular interactions to the Immune Attack project. http://fas.org/press/experts/stegman.html

To learn more or to download Immune Attack, please visit: http://fas.org/immuneattack/.

Media Note

Additional information on the ASCB Annual Meeting news can be provided in advance to reporters who ensure adherence to the embargo policy. Reporters, please contact John Fleishman, (513) 929-4635, jfleischman@ascb.org, before December 4. After December 4, call (513) 706-0212 or (619) 525-6211 to reach the ASCB 2009 Newsroom on-site in Room 21, San Diego Convention Center, 111 West Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA.

The ASCB Reporter Roundtable, "Teen Video Gamers Acquire Immunity", will be also available via conference call.

Please contact John Fleischman to RSVP for this press event or to obtain the telephone call in and PIN numbers at jfleischman@ascb.org.

The roundtable will begin at 10:00 am PST Tuesday, December 8, 2009 at the ASCB Newsroom, Space is limited.

To schedule an interview with Dr. Melanie Ann Stegman, please contact Monica Amarelo at email mamarelo@fas.org or call 202-454-4680.

About the Federation of American Scientists

The Federation of American Scientists (www.FAS.org) was formed in 1945 by atomic scientists from the Manhattan Project. Endorsed by 84 Nobel Laureates in biology, chemistry, economics, medicine and physics as sponsors, the Federation has addressed a broad spectrum of national security issues in carrying out its mission to promote humanitarian uses of science and technology. Today, FAS projects study nuclear arms control and global security; conventional arms transfers; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; information technology for human health; and government information policy.

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