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Filament Shares Serious Games Measurable Results At The Upcoming G4C Google Hangout

Games for Change announced yesterday its second installment of the G4C Industry Circle series to be held Sept. 17, when Filament Games will share a case study evaluating the impact of their Serious Game Backyard Engineers.

Hear even more about how Filament makes learning games and measures their results at the upcoming Google Hangout on September 17 at 2 p.m. EST.


Michele Huppert, seventh-grade STREAM (science, technology, reading, engineering, arts, and math) teacher at Spring Valley Middle School in Wisconsin, incorporated Backyard Engineers into her classroom activities. Backyard Engineers is an engineering learning game aligned to middle-school science standards, where players must customize different catapult elements in order to manipulate movement, accuracy, and range.

In order to bring the advantages of game-based learning into the classroom, Backyard Engineers was incorporated into an interdisciplinary unit tied to Next Generation Science Standards.

Google Forms were utilized to create both pre- and post- tests for the 63 students in this case study. All of the students received access to Backyard Engineers and played the game on designated lab days. The game reinforced concepts that the students were learning during their classroom lessons and activities. Concepts included catapult criteria and constraints, structural design, forces, velocity and acceleration, and work and energy.

Key Results

•        An average 20.09% increase in general student scores between pre- and post-test
•        An average 9.56% increase in scores for students with identified special needs between pre- and post-test
•        An average 17.42% increase in scores across all students between pre- and post-test

Key Components of Study Design

       Pre- and post-test data: Gained through testing using Google Forms
•        Designated in-class game play time
•        Integration of digital and physical activities to reinforce classroom content
•        Post-experience reflective writing activities

About Backyard Engineers

Backyard Engineers is an online game that helps players think like engineers as they design their own homemade catapults: players experiment with physics concepts and manipulate several catapult components -- such as gear ratios, arm lengths, and building materials -- in their quest to design the ultimate water balloon launcher. It's easy enough to jump in, with helpful tutorials and extra instructional text throughout.

The game utilizes a mostly visual interface to help players make and iterate their catapults, thus eliminating the need of “numerical hoops” to play the game. By customizing different mechanical elements of the catapult, students can manipulate movement, accuracy, range, and damage to drench even the most evasive of targets. Each level of the game is a unique puzzle that challenges players to experiment with engineering solutions and find the best way to soak their neighbors!

The game was designed from the ground up around meaningful learning objectives that inform the gameplay mechanics. Standards-based curriculum and a progress reporting dashboard are included with the game to help teachers make the most of this engaging learning experience in their classrooms.

Backyard Engineers is most successful in inspiring players to understand engineering concepts, by merging practical and physical aspects of the engineering thought process. The game responds to the material challenges educators face when teaching engineering in the classroom, thus helping them introduce engineering concepts with minimum overheads.

Design Challenges

Matt Haselton, the lead game designer, tried to make a list of challenges educators face when teaching engineering in the classroom.

The first challenge to overcome was material. Teachers who teach using traditional methods face a lot of overhead such as time, cost, and materials. If a teacher wants students to build their own catapults during a class period, they will need items such as Popsicle sticks, twine, and other building materials - and the funds to purchase them.

The second challenge was finding a way to teach engineering to the students. Engineering is a subject that relies heavily on information from math and statistics, and the designer wanted to make sure that players would not have to jump through numerical hoops to play the game. By eliminating this element, players could solely focus on the engineering process. To do this, the game heavily visualizes the iteration methods. Players can make immediate changes to their catapult and immediately test their design to see how decisions they make affect mechanical output. The designer belief was that once students have mastered the engineering process, they would be able to add in the math and science that applies.


In the game, players create the best possible ultimate catapult to launch water balloons at their bullying neighbors on the backyard! Each catapult component costs design points, and they use up energy when moved, armed, or fired -- merging practical and physical aspects of the engineering process. Kids score points for clearing each level of bullies using the fewest water balloons while preserving the most energy, so placing catapults strategically to create accurate and/or large splash zones is important.