Zodiac (2017-2019)

What is it?

Zodiac is an artificial intelligence curriculum featuring a learning game that teaches middle and high school students about artificial intelligence concepts. There are three primary components to the Zodiac learning system:

1. A Reference Textbook that includes all knowledge students and teachers will need to learn about AI concepts, including supporting video links and images to support engaged learning

2. The Zodiac Game, an 18-level experience where students can explore AI concepts in a hands-on way by directly interacting with them in a meaningful context with a supportive and engaging narrative

3. The Teacher Support Guide, which provides a lesson map, diagrams, and other helpful content to aid teachers through instructing this cutting-edge and complex content.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Based on the experiential learning model (Kolb, 1984), Zodiac intends to teach an international middle school audience about artificial intelligence concepts such as search, optimization, and machine learning by having them interact with systems that model how these concepts work. In this 15-week codeless, mathless course, students will learn how AI actually works by completing digital and analog activities, watching informative videos, and reflecting on these concepts both individually and in groups.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The centerpiece of the Zodiac System is the game, Zodiac, which provides a fun and engaging way for students to practice and explore how these concepts work. Throughout the game, players will complete missions that relate to a sci-fi narrative that provides a natural context to teach players about learning content. These lessons will be taught through game play, by completing stories that involve the learning content elements.

My Role

I am the Product Director for Zodiac. I envisioned the game originally, and have been involved in every step of its evolution since then. As I have been enacted my vision for the game, I have had to take on numerous roles within the project.

Design Director – Throughout the development process, I have been overseeing the design vision for the Cyberscape. I have worked with developers, artists, learning content specialists, and business partners to ensure that the core essence of the game’s mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetic is translated and understood between all parties, while meeting milestones and requirements throughout the development process. I have drafted design documents, mockups, and storyboards for game content ranging from learning design to the monetization model to the quest narratives.

Learning Designer – One of my core tasks as the game director for a learning game is to ensure that the game content actually provides pedagogically sound and measurable learning outcomes. While developing the game design content, I have translated artificial intelligence curriculum into the game content. I have developed a curriculum structure for the learning content both in the game and in the exercises and worksheets students complete. Many of the learning goals will be involved the game play loops that players execute repeatedly throughout game play, and in the higher level themes and narratives that the player will explore as they get further into the game. Creating these learning mechanics, and incentivized learning opportunities is a core aspect of Cyberscape’s design philosophy – students will be motivated to learn by a desire to explore and succeed within the game.

I also performed user testing with many game elements, including the visual design, the game design, and the learning design, including AB and efficacy testing. Collecting and analyzing user feedback on game elements has helped shift the design focus throughout our process, and been essential to developing our business strategy.

Business Strategist – I currently serve as a member of Cyberscape’s Executive Board, working with fellow shareholders to create our strategy for the product and company. I regularly meet with investors and other project stakeholders to ensure the project is on track and continues to fulfill strategic goals for the company. After receiving an angel investment of $1m USD, I developed a Request for Proposal (RFP), and evaluated respondents to find the game development studio that would best suit the project. I have also helped develop core strategic plans, including project milestones, cost projections, pitch preparation, and more.

Through key business relationships, Cyberscape is being marketed to one of the largest non-US markets in the world, with the potential for being published through educational channels directly into a school system with hundreds of millions of users. In order to create a product that can fulfill the criteria we are projected to meet, I have done extensive market research and user testing to find what elements will give the game the greatest chances of success. I have designed the game’s aesthetic, mechanics, and narrative to engage the target audience we’re most interested in, as well as meeting the requirements of the regulators in the market we’re working in, as well as being a helpful and desirable learning tool for teachers in the classroom.

Kolb, D. A. (2014). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. FT press.