There is an acknowledgement within the nuclear industry that work needs to be done to work on the public’s more negative perceptions of nuclear power, help them realise the positive economic impact of the nuclear sector for the UK and inspire and inform young people about potential future career opportunities in nuclear science and engineering.
Across the UK, The University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute is on a mission to inform the public about nuclear energy production, demystifying the subject, increasing understanding and demolishing myths in a way that is both educational and fun. They aim to raise awareness of the energy and climate change challenges faced and how researchers are looking to address them, as well as informing the public about developments in the field of nuclear R&D, through public lectures and science festivals using a variety of educational tools and marketing resources.
How do we enthuse young people to take a more active interest in nuclear energy production? One possible answer would be to let them try it out! To try and create electricity by operating a nuclear power plant, with the pressures of meeting the country’s energy demand without having to face the real-life impact of not achieving this target (aside from a dent to their pride!).
Enter the Nuclear Reactor Simulator, a solution for making it easier to understand the processes of creating energy using nuclear fission and providing a gateway to discussion about nuclear energy providing low carbon, sustainable power. The challenge was to create a simplified, easy-to-play simulation to quickly teach the correct processes for nuclear energy production and coping with varying power demands over time. The solution also required the use of gamification to increase the playability and encourage repeat play. For ease of deployment it was also necessary for the simulation to run on modern browsers without the use of plugins.
Thanks to the team at The University of Manchester, much of the direction for the project had already been set. This incorporated the use of the latest open web technologies and the desire to use gamification to increase engagement. We duly worked with the set direction and were able to create quick wins which could then solicit feedback swiftly and the development cycle could be carried out within a few months.
What we did
Working closely with the client team, we converted their existing simulation, which only ran as a PC-based executable, to a browser based web format. We also enhanced the introductory and information aspects of the simulation for enhanced learning. We incorporated game elements in the simulation through gamification of . And we developed a standalone network version of the game that would allow players to compete against each other on getting the best score whether online or at an outreach event such as a science fair.
- Using a simplified simulation model brings the key elements of energy production using nuclear fission to life, making it easier to understand and remember the main concepts.
- Using gamification the re-playability of the simulation is increased both to beat one’s own score and to compete with others.
- The simulation works on all modern browsers which support the latest standards of the openweb.