Engineers Without Borders Australia Education Essay

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Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB) is a non-for profit organisation with over four thousand members in Australia (EWB,2010). The organisation brings together a range of people from all over Australia to help attend to small sustainable engineering problems faced by disadvantaged communities.

EWB's vision is; "a world where every individual and community has adequate access to the resources, knowledge and technology necessary to meet their self-identified human needs" (EWB,2010). To help achieve this, EWB volunteers work with less fortunate communities in Australia and the Asia pacific region. They wish for Australia's past to be acknowledged, shared, taught and understood by all whom live here. They look forward to witness a county that thrives on the complexity and value of its many cultures. They encourage a future where the indigenous and non indigenous are proud to work together and overcome the current inequalities between the cultures.

EWB have many partnerships with indigenous communities throughout Australia. Through these partnerships thirty one EWB members undertook voluntary field work with indigenous community organisations in 2009. Perhaps one of the strongest partnerships is that between the EWB and The Kooma Traditional Owners Association Incorporated (KTOAI). EWB has been working alongside KTOAI since January 2007 when Cheryl Buchanan, chair of KTOAI contacted EWB in request of a waste management plan (EWB, 2010). Since this first connection between the organizations, many projects have been collaborated to help the Kooma people. The three major projects were; development of a waste management program, the Kooma energy project and the Melbourne Water Wetlands and Waterways Management Program (EWB, 2010). The most recent project site for EWB in correlation with KTOAI is to create a regional hub for the Kooma people for training and cultural renewal.

The KTOAI acquired two adjoining properties in January of 2000 from the indigenous land corporation. The properties named Murra Murra and Bendee Downs are situated in South-West Queensland near the Kooma nation. Other families often visit the properties for many reasons and the KTO wish to use the property as a base for the renewal of their people and culture. They wish to set an example of sustainable living in Australia and continue their bond with the country as their ancestors did. KTOAI's exact vision is; "to use the properties as a 'regional hub', a training ground and base for the renewal of all our people and the protection and wise management of all of our traditional lands. We wish to meet their cultural responsibilities; and further to set an example in our country of the importance of a sustainable and continuing connection to country through inclusive management as their ancestors did and make Kooma people proud" (EWB, 2010).

The two properties consist of about three quarters pastoral lease holding (under the Commonwealth of Australia law; there is an agreement that allow the use of this land by farmers for an agreed price with the owners of the land, REFRENCE) and one quarter freehold land and nature refuge. The total area of the two properties is approximately 87,159 hectares (EWB, 2010). There are currently two aboriginal families living at the properties acting as care takers.

Both EWB and the KTOAI work together as a community. The project creates a cultural exchange and helps to break down the cultural barriers between the indigenous and the non indigenous. EWB hopes that this project will help to widen the scope of this vision and help EWB members to better understand the indigenous communities they work with. The organisation also hopes that an exchange of knowledge will lead to interesting projects with real outcomes that are useful to the indigenous people. EWB intends for the relationship with the Kooma people to be a long term partnership with both organizations learning from each other.

4.1 Project Scope

4.1.1 What will be addressed?

In the intended plan of the 'regional hub', KTOAI wishes to educate local visitors about Australian Culture through the use of a computer aid. The software should be tailored to the requirements of the Kooma community. The software should be in the form of a game and should be both educational whilst also being fun and informative. An educational game can be defined as a medium with all the characteristics of a gaming environment that have intended educational outcomes targeted at specific groups of learners (REFERENCE). Educational games are predominantly effective when designed to tackle a specific problem. If the problem is too broad, the learning experience is also too broad and marks the game useless. Specific objectives should be created in the design process and deployed within a context relevant to the learning activity and goal. Therefore the game needs to be specifically tailored to the exact needs of the KTO community in a way that they can learn about Australian culture. The design of the game will try to address this specific need and not waffle on a topic inappropriate to the genre. The game will be concise and strait to the point whilst also being educational. It also needs to be user friendly in a way that someone who has never used a computer before can sit and interact with the game with little trouble.

4.1.2 Assumptions

It is assumed that all computers on the property are in working order. It is also assumed that they have the requirements to run Microsoft Windows. They must be running Microsoft Windows and have Game Maker (Reference) and any necessary software installed on them. It can also be assumed that the computers are networked or can be networked without replacing the current hardware.

5.1 Prior art (1 -2 pages)

5.1.1 Educational Games

There are frequent arguments on whether or not gaming and education should go together. While there is a lot of controversy surrounding the topic, research suggests that computer games can be educative (Jodie Gummow, 2004). Researchers have found that people who play computer games have better vision compared to non-players. Computer games also assist children in improving hand-eye coordination and improve reflexes (Chris Crawford, 1997).

The reason games are very good at engaging people in specific problems is because they can put the user into very complex problems. The user will fail and fail, but try again and again until they receive the right result. However if a problem were on a piece of paper, the user may fail and simply skip the problem, learning nothing (Luke Plunkett , 2010).

In today's age, technological advancement is changing the way in which children and adults interact with technology. Because of the integration of technology and the modern world, educational games are gaining popularity. Games and simulations are becoming increasing relevant in the field of education for both children and adults alike (e-learning and technology, 2007).

In various Internet forums about educational computer games there has been talk on how to make someone want to play an educational game. Traditionally in an educational game, people would have to remember something like types of ores. The alternative of this is having people play as miners prospecting for minerals to identify profitable sources. Rather than using games to escape from their studies, this encourages people to use games to escape into their studies (Starting Point Teaching, 2008).

5.1.2 What can be taught through educational games?

Countless studies have been completed to sample what can actually be taught through a computer game. Many researchers say computer games are the key to success in an information age. Their findings suggest that people who play computer games make sharper soldiers, drivers and surgeons, because their reaction time and peripheral vision is better (Daniel Rubin, 2004). Computer games can also help to teach reading and writing skills, money handling skills and most importantly; ethics. Multiplayer games can expand a player's social life so anyone regardless of colour, religion or age, anyone can be a leader in their own right (Daniel Rubin, 2004).

In certain studies, Doctors have found that computer games can improve logical thinking and enhance problem solving skills (Daniel Rubin, 2004). A similar UK study found that simulation games where players create societies; develop people's strategic thinking and planning skills. The same study led to an investigation into the habits of seven hundred children aged seven to sixteen. The study found that children preferred to play games in pairs or small groups (BBC News, 2002). It is then arguable that games can help to develop team work and social skills for the real world. It is also suggested in some articles that the computer gaming culture has formed its own community. In these communities, players teach others how to overcome obstacles and work together and hence, computer games can expand a player's social life (Vinci Rufus, 2008).

5.1.3 What makes a good game?

A good game must consist of many different components. It must have an interesting storyline; it must be flexible, challenging, rewarding, acknowledging and must have a sense of realism. Good games have continuous challenges which lead to other challenges to keep a player hooked on the game (Starting Point Teaching, 2008). To do this short, clear goals are set appropriate to the level and experience of the player within the context of the game. The fundamental motivation for all game playing is to learn how to get better or greater in power (Jodie Gummow, 2004).

Another component to making a good game is the story line. Though, a good story line is not an essential for every type of game. In the case of player verse player multiplayer games, there is really no storyline. Instead, the excitement of competition engages the players (Starting Point Teaching, 2008). Flexibility is also a vital part of good games. There needs to be different ways to accomplish goals. People need to think and use their own strategy to achieve a specific goal. A game should also have immediate and useful rewards. After accomplishing a goal you must receive something; a new capability, a new part of a world to explore or simply a new goal (Starting Point Teaching, 2008).

In many people's opinions, the most fundamental part of a game is realism (Mac Senour, 2006). Every game needs to be somehow related to the real world. Game even such as Si-Fi games; are somehow related to real world events, places or decisions. However, the most important part of a game is to entertain and edify the game player.

5.1.4 Existing games for indigenous cultures

After research, it was determined that there were not too many games targeted toward cultural education. However, there was one interesting find from Carleton's Centre for Indigenous Research, Culture, Language and Education known as CIRCLE. Professors John Kelly and Elaine Keillor, co-directors of CIRCLE developed two online games called On the Path of Elders (Jennifer Pagliaro, 2008).

The games contain educational resources about the Mushkegowuk and Anishinaabe people of northeastern and northwestern Ontario. They are aimed at reconnecting young aboriginal people with the knowledge of their elders (Jennifer Pagliaro, 2008). This may help in preserving the traditions and identity of their ancestors.

Many industries helped in the funding of this project. "The funding of $974,433,comes from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to facilitate Aboriginal students' transition from high school and to boost and support Carleton's Aboriginal student population" (Jennifer Pagliaro, 2008). The project also received a $375,000 federal grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage (Jennifer Pagliaro, 2008).