• Funded by: National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation
  • Focus: Geoscience/Planetary Science
  • Project type: Leap Motion


Targeting California state standards for earth science and geoscience, this interactive driven pair of games utilize Leap Motion technology to teach players about Pangean and Geomoto. Players will challenge their creative problem solving skills through sophisticated game play and have their learning reinforced through this multi-sensory teaching tool. This module is designed to bring misconceptions about traditionally challenging geoscience concepts to the surface, and includes opportunities for students to correct their understanding through experience and interaction.



Pangean is a didactic puzzle game used to introduce the concept of continental drift before moving on to plate tectonics. As a galactic member of the United Colonies, players will travel the universe in their own scouting ship—using their hologram interface to piece together continents and demonstrate the shift that occurs over a hundred million years. Initial levels will consist of simple moving and rotation of landmasses, but as difficulty increases players will be armed with advanced tools for additional insight. Use the fossil probe to reveal patterns in creature inhabitance and the sonar to scan for eroded portions of the continent. Combine information from all provided tools to make more difficult puzzles solvable and complete the final mission of returning present day Earth to its Pangean state.


Observe, Extrapolate, and Test

  • Pangean encourages users to recognize patterns as clues to relationships. Students use information to make hypotheses, test their theories, and revise according to results.
  • Players use reverse engineering techniques to understand geological models, studying the current state and moving backwards to replicate the original form.
  • Students witness how science and technology work together in making discoveries. The sonar and fossil tools unveil great amounts of information that lead to scientific breakthroughs.


Geomoto is an embodied learning experience where players kinesthetically create geographic features by pulling, smashing, and grinding tectonic plates together. Using the Leap Motion Controller, players navigate around a planet devoid of geographic features. Players will complete objectives and generate produce the motion of the plates using hand gestures through the responsive motion sensor technology. Initial challenges focus on exposure to the vocabulary surrounding plate tectonics, with later levels requiring specific observations about the structures created from the plate collisions. The game uses this same level progression to guide students in learning about earthquakes and faults. The game can be played by an individual student, or facilitated by a teacher to provide hands-on learning opportunities appropriate to standard curriculum.

Learning through Action

  • Interactive animation based learning allows students to physically move plate tectonics and observe the resulting features on the planet’s surface for an embodied learning experience.
  • Linking tactile actions to learning objectives—resulting in greater understanding and retention of complex material.
  • Scaling difficulty introduces new concepts fluidly and later tests understanding through application.
  • Manipulate plates to cause convergent, divergent, and transform plate boundaries and witness resulting rift valleys, subduction zones, volcanoes and more.



Team of Experts

In this project, GameDesk will merge its assessment-driven game-learning design practices with content experts from Caltech’s Tectonics Observatory, Boston University, Michigan State University, Bill Nye the Science Guy and the Planetary Society, and the New York Hall of Science to foster deep conceptual learning of geoscience topics. We will experimentally evaluate the effectiveness of the modules for yielding strong learning outcomes and for fostering students’ STEM career aspirations.