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Gateway to Science

Trees Against the Wind

Interactive Wind Simulator for Farming Education

A promo image for S.W.A.P, a first-person shooter developed by Sydney based Game Development Studio Chaos Theory Games
Trees Against the Wind (TATW) is an interactive sandbox that lets multiple players design, position and orient windbreaks, in order to solve problems on North Dakotan farmland.

TATW is on exhibition at Gateway to Science, North Dakota's Hands-on Science Centre. It's part of the interactive gallery that helps to teach STEM to students of all ages.

We were presented with

The Challenge

Gateway to Science and North Dakota Forest Service wanted to help kids learn how trees can be used to mitigate the effects of wind on the environment. The client tasked us with creating a game that was not only educational, but also fun, challenging and hands-on.

That became

The Solution

Curiosity & Experimentation

TATW entices players to observe the farmland that is in distress, and take action. The client wanted to elicit curiosity in the player, having them first identify and engage with a problem, before then engaging with the game and devising their own solution.

A windbreak is a row or group of trees, shrubs, or structural elements that are used to block and direct the wind. Players are challenged to create, position & orient their own windbreak, they can engage in play or for experimentation, or have the expressed goal of directly solving one or more of the problems on the map.
A screenshot from the hands-on exhibit, Trees Against the Wind. Showing the farm crops that need to be sheltered from the wind.
Photograph of multiple children playing on a museum touchscreen interactive table

Multiplayer Interactive Map

Supports 8 - 10 players max, they are free to build individual windbreaks and attempt to solve any of the problems. Players are free to discuss and collaborate, or even compete with a total of 20 simultaneous touches possible on the touchscreen.

Players observe a top down map of farmland. A number of issues such as dry soil, signs of erosion are visible. It is made clear that strong prevailing winds are the cause of these problems.

Real Native Flora

Players use a combination of shrubs and trees to create a shelterbelt that offers various levels of all-year protection.

The height and shape of trees used in a shelterbelt can determine how effective the shelterbelt will be in reducing wind speed.

TATW's natural windbreaks are based on real plants and trees that are native to the Great Plains region.
A diagram of the cross-section of a 10-row shelterbelt | Chaos Theory

Which led to

The Results

Live Exhibit in the US

TATW is available to play at the interactive exhibit gallery at Gateway to Science, North Dakota’s hands-on science center.
A photograph of children and a teacher learning about wind power, and blowing on a model of a wind turbine | Chaos Theory
A colourful graphic for the STEM framework, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics | Chaos Theory

STEM Learning Goals

TATW meets its learning goals by using realistic wind simulation. The exhibit's accuracy presents real challenges for players and rewards their exploration and experimentation.
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