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Updated Feb 5, 2014 - 10:17 am

ASU developing video games to teach science, nutrition

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kids love to play video games. They can get some exercise while they play their X-Box now, but soon they could also be learning physics and good nutrition while they play.

In Arizona State University's Embodied Games for Physics Learning Lab, researchers are developing video games in which kids can learn science and other things while playing videos.

One game is called Gears and Levers. It traces the kids' arm movements as they move them.

"We can track moving their arm as they jack up a virtual car on the screen," said Associate Professor Mina Johnson-Glenberg. "We're teaching kids very sophisticated concepts using fun games and their body movements."

Johnson-Glenberg says exercising the body does the brain some good. "Our research has shown that when kids use their bodies to learn, they actually retain the information better."

Another game being developed is one designed to teach kids healthy eating by feeding an alien that's on the screen. If he eats too much fattening food, the alien becomes fatigued.

Johnson-Glenberg said that the nutrition game is for middle school aged children, while other games teach science and physics to high school through college-aged kids.

Her goal is to keep kids interested in science.

"Somewhere around middle school, they stop being excited about science," said Johnson-Glenberg. "If there's a way to make it fun for them and keep them engaged, and let them feel like a scientist and take on the identity of a scientist, that's what I want to do. I want to keep those kids in the pipeline so that they become adult scientists."

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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