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Calmast Showcases Evolution Game to Minister

Calmast demonstrated the Mutation Game to Minister Batt O'Keefe at the Department of Trade, Enterprise and Innovation in Dublin. The board game recently won the coveted Grand Jury Prize in Brussels. The game was developed by Calmast and its UK partners to explain gene mutation to second-level students.
Calmast Showcases Evolution Game to Minister

Dr Sheila Donegan, director of Calmast, Batt O’Keeffe, TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, and Eoin Gill, director of Calmast


The partnership involved in developing the Evolution Game included Dr Sheila Donegan and Eoin Gill, Calmast, Waterford Institute of Technology; Dr Cas Kramer, GENIE, Genetics Outreach Centre, University of Leicester; Dr Ruth Barber, Department of Genetics, University of Leicester; and Dr Karen Moss, CELS, Centre for Effective Learning in Science, Nottingham Trent University.

According to Dr Donegan the idea behind the project is that learning is fun.  “The game [...] demonstrates evolution in action and shows how genetic mutations occur constantly,” she said. “Some of these changes are good, some bad and many have no effect.

“We’ve trialled the game a number of times in schools in a number of schools in Waterford, the UK and now Belgium. Each time it has proved a great success in engaging pupils and helping them learn about genetic issues.”

Set on an alien planet, the Evolution Game shows ‘evolution in action’. Each player or team sees their character change through DNA mutations and evolve to have different appearances and characteristics.  Players start out as different species but during the game population sizes increase and physical changes take place to their body shapes, colours and they develop extra legs, extra eyes, ears, fangs, tails, and so on.

“The judging panel were impressed that the teenagers playing with the game had a lot of fun and learnt the fundamentals of genetics and that gene mutation could be good as well as bad,” said Dr Donegan.  “Led by an adult facilitator, a number of different versions of the game can be played using different sets of cards to create new scenarios. We are working with our partners to explore the option of putting this game into production."

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O'Keeffe TD, congratulated Calmast on its award, saying the centre had demonstrated imagination and creativity in devising the board game. 

“Calmast bridged the gap between science and everyday life by devising an innovative way to explain gene mutation to second-level students,” he said. “The Government is focusing our research activity on products and services that have commercial market potential. It is important, too, however, that society in general feels that it has a stake in the evolution of science knowledge and Calmast has made an important contribution to making that effort relevant to our daily lives.”

The 2Ways project was established to communicate European Life Science Research to the people of Europe. Over 60 research and science events organisations participated in the project which ran through 2009 and 2010. Partners from EU countries worked in pairs to develop new communication tools to highlight research areas previously funded by the European Union. The project was co-ordinated by the European Science Events Association.