Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) 2004 Use of Computer Simulation Games for Instructional Purposes in Middle School and Jr. High – UA05-RET Supplemental Publication

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Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) 2004 Use of Computer Simulation Games for Instructional Purposes in Middle School and Jr. High – UA05-RET Supplemental Publication

Use of computer simulation games to introduce industrial engineering basics into middle and junior high schools curriculums.


National Science Foundation

Research Team:

Edward A. Pohl, Melissa Miller , Richard Cassady, Randall Reynolds

Universities Involved:

University of Arkansas

Start Date:


End Date:



This project’s goal was to introduce the area of designing and managing supply chains, and basic industrial and systems engineering to the eighth and sixth grade curriculum with the use of the computer simulation games Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 and Zoo Tycoon Complete respectively. The materials developed are intended to help students acquire fundamental problem solving capabilities as well as a basic understanding of some tools used in Industrial Engineering and logistics.
The 2004 Summer RET program at the University of Arkansas provided an opportunity for two public school teachers to conduct research in the area of designing and managing supply chains, as well as in basic industrial and systems engineering. Emphasis was placed on how these concepts can be explored through the use of a simulation game that would provide a high interest classroom project based upon sound curriculum. The challenge for the project was to create an activity involving a simulation-based video game relating to a particular aspect of Industrial Engineering. The activity was to then be used as a laboratory exercise for INEG 1103: Principles of Industrial Engineering and also modified for use as a classroom activity for junior high school students. Obviously, a major issue was designing the activity with a proper level of difficulty for both age groups while keeping the subject matter relevant to meaningful engineering and junior high instruction.

This project was completed under the leadership of two mentoring professors: Dr. Richard Cassady and Dr. Ed Pohl, who provided guidance and also secured funding necessary to support the implementation of the curriculum into the public schools by providing the necessary supplies through the support of Dr. John English, center director at the University of Arkansas.
Sixth Graders
This material was found to be extremely beneficial to the students.

* They learned several important concepts and developed much needed problem solving skills.
* Motivation was also extremely high.
* This experience was also used to illustrate to the students possible career choices, including engineering, and how decisions they would be making in high school would affect their success in college.
* Many students expressed new interest in taking additional math courses and science courses such as physics, largely due to the interest built up by playing the selected game.

Eighth Graders
Implementation of the cause-and effect diagram activity was a success with some interesting effects.

* The activity was performed in a mathematics reinforcement class called “reasoning workshop” at Gravette Junior High.
* Students reflected and discussed with peers about the project and career opportunities in engineering and computer programming.
* Students became more focused on their regular math class.

Overall, both projects were well received by the students and provided worthwhile instruction.