Game-based learning to teach electricity
Using Minecraft in a school environment? That’s what the Lumen project is all about! Lumen is a module for Minecraft that offers a fun and exciting way to teach youngsters about some of the fundamental concepts of energy with a focus on electricity. It does this by letting them play a modification of the popular computer game Minecraft. In this modification, electrical components are implemented, which allow the player to experiment in a fun and safe environment.
So if you want to find out more about how electricity works or if you just want to build massive environmentally friendly buildings then this modification is for you!
The Lumen project aims to teach 9-15 year olds the fundamental concepts of energy with a focus on electricity. In the module, all the electrical components that are used act exactly the same as they would in the real world. Thanks to Lumen youngsters can experiment with electrical power in a safe and fun environment. They can construct electrical circuits which are stable, easy to use and can be developed further.
This is demonstrated, for example, by connecting solar panels and generators to light bulbs that light up if everything is done correctly. Voltage and ampere meters also show the voltage and the actual current being fed into the light bulbs from generator and solar panels. This shows that a solar panel produces less electricity than a generator which means that more solar panels will have to be connected before the bulb lights up.
The game can be used both in the classroom and at home, either playing yourself in your own pace or online with worldwide competition. When playing the game, kids were very enthusiastic and learned all settings in just a few minutes. Then they started creating their own environments.
The game can be downloaded by clicking relevant blue button below and you are also welcome to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to know more about how to use this for teaching.
Note: this file includes the modification and installation guide. Minecraft must already be installed on your device, this file does not include the game. A new version of Lumen will be launched soon.
Based on fundamental electrical concepts
The features of the game are based on some fundamental concepts related to electricity:
Concept of resistance on cables and other devices. Less resistance means that you will have less losses and that the voltage will not drop that much. So powered devices will receive a voltage that is closer to the voltage of optimal performance.
The total current is always conserved on a junction, as can be seen in the figure (where both parts have the same resistance).
Practical effects of Ohm’s law and Kirchoff’s law
In practical situations, it is usually a combination of these laws that will be seen. The easiest in which players will notice the effects is that a consumer (e.g. a lamp) will not work good if it is connected to a generator by a long system of cables, because the cumulative resistance of the cables becomes big (Ohm). This effect can be lowered by adding additional cables in parallel, which reduces the total resistance (Kirchoff). But this has a consequence that certain connector cables could have really big flows of current, causing them to melt – as the students will experience in a specific tutorial.
Electricity is harmful – But not with proper isolation
There are currently two types of cables, insulated and naked cables. When players walk into a naked wire that is powered, then they will get hurt. This can be avoided by insulating the cables, although these effects can sometimes be useful (think of electrical fences etc.).
Solar power is intermittent –Actually all renewable energy sources
Renewable energy sources will be very useful to the players as they do not require an additional source of fuel. But seeing as they receive their power from external sources, they will not supply a steady current of power. For example: a solar panel will not produce electricity by night or on a cloudy day or the efficiency of wind turbines strongly depends on the wind speed and direction.
Thus players will be quickly forced to adapt to these different sources, by differentiating their power sources and by using batteries to store power.
Another aspect of these renewable energy sources is that they often deliver a lot less power than a regular generator (e.g. coal), which requires the player to build quite a lot of solar panels, or use renewable sources as a complementary power solution.
Components that obey/follow basic laws of electricity
- Generators consume fuel (coal, wood…) to generate power
- Solar panels see whether they receive sunlight and will produce power accordingly, based on the sun’s inclination etc.
- Wind turbines generate power based on the wind speed (which is also based on the height of the turbine) and the wind direction (it sees if there are any obstacles that block the wind).
- Lamps are just the most basic consumers we have, which quickly show if they receive power, and how much they receive. There are different types, regular light bulbs, CF-lamps and led-panels, each with a different efficiency.
- The meters can be used to show the current flowing through a cable, or the voltage of a block or how much power it is consuming.
- Programmable consumer and programmable generator are just two items that we used for testing and building specific things. Their resistance and desired voltage can manually be set. But they are not physical.