- NASA partnered with students at Brigham Young University and the University of Maryland to create DUST, a new multi-player online game meant to engage middle and high school students in science.
- The alternate reality game requires players to use real-world knowledge, skills, and resources (i.e., the Internet, social media, museums, and texts) to navigate a fictional world where "mysterious clouds of dust" in the planet's atmosphere have rendered all of the adults unconscious.
- DUST was funded through various grants from the National Science Foundation and is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.
This is one of two games the team behind DUST plans to create. The game is specifically targeting girls and other groups lacking representation in the STEM world. This goal is not unique but is part of a larger push that many in the tech world are starting to get behind. In December, when Girls Who Code announced plans to grow its Summer Immersion Program from 375 girls in 19 classes to 1,200 girls in 60 classes, it presented the decision with two stats. Those numbers: Women represent only 15% of Google's tech workers, and only 17% at Facebook.
The reality is that there is a lot of room for improvement. While females are definitely a minority in the computer science fields, so are people of color. According to Code.org, of the 3.5 million students who took the AP Computer Science exam in 2012, only 3,000 were black or Hispanic. DUST very well could be a first step in bridging that knowledge gap.