Engineering Academic Challenge

Engineering Academic Challenge
Jay Bhatt
November 1, 2016

Engineering Academic ChallengeHow can play be transformed into learning? Over the past few weeks, the W.W. Hagerty Library’s Data Visualization Zone has hosted three “Engineering Academic Challenge” events that have sought to answer this very question. Developed entirely by six Drexel engineering students and Liaison Librarian for Engineering Jay Bhatt, the Engineering Academic Challenge is a game centered around five trans-disciplinary themes that is now being played by people around the world.

At Drexel University, the challenge was kicked off with a live event where more than 60 people dropped in over a three-hour period, with upwards of 40 attending on the second marathon night. On Engineering Academic Challenge marathon nights, the Libraries’ Bookmark Café and Data Visualization Zone morph into a collaborative gaming space where learners – from first-years to PhD candidates – work together to solve the challenge. The challenge began on October 10 and a new problem-set of questions will be posted each week until November 13 .

The Engineering Academic Challenge is an immersive interdisciplinary problem-set-based competition that uses two powerful databases, Knovel and EngineeringVillage. These tools give students access to thousands of reference items, tables and graphs that help them solve the challenge.

The idea is to encourage learning through something that students already do for fun: play games. At their core, games are forms of structured play in which we impose unnecessary obstacles and voluntarily overcome them. Game design principles correlate nicely with principles of active learning. Games get progressively more difficult as we go through them and achieve different levels. As in real life, gamers observe the world, develop a hypothesis, test it, iteratively learn and revise their approach in the next attempt. Sounds a lot like something called the scientific method.

And how does the Libraries fit into all this? By its nature, a library is a space for this very kind of collaborative, communal learning to happen. The Drexel University Libraries serves as a place outside of the classroom where students can come together to learn in ways that make sense for them – whether that is through individual study, collaborative research or game play. The Libraries is the perfect spot for the kind of informal learning that the Engineering Academic Challenge inspires. The Drexel team created a model for campus engagement in the game that is being replicated in universities across the world

Librarians who would like to launch the game at their institution can find resources at: