An ambitious, University based, USDA sponsored research project investigating
the sustainable production and distribution of bioenergy and
bioproducts for the central U.S.

Virtually Growing CenUSA with Mobile Apps

By Kristin Peterson

CenUSA Bioenergy’s extension and outreach team continues to make strides in development of mobile games, apps and e-books. This summer they presented their new mobile game, C6Biofarm, at the Iowa State Fair.

The name C6 comes from carbon’s designation in the Periodic Table of Elements, C6 and carbon’s status as a building block for most forms of energy.

The C6 team, as they have become known, is made up of CenUSA extension and outreach staff as well as a group of undergraduate interns from CenUSA and the National Science Foundation’s Iowa EPSCoR program studying at Iowa State University.

 Aaron Jacobson, a junior in design and computer science, has been helping to program and design the C6 game. Bre Branderhorst, a junior in agriculture education, is helping to develop the curriculum to teach about agriculture and bioenergy through these programs. Caitlyn Carlson, a junior in biological systems engineering, helped to create the e-book and app to teach about farming sustainability.

“The main purpose of C6BioFarm is to help connect the idea that fuels can be made from renewables and to help increase options for agriculture,” said Jay Staker, Director of Extension Science, Engineering and Technology at Iowa State University and a member of CenUSA’s Outreach and Extension team.  “The sub purpose is to help people better understand agriculture production with STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] careers and the economy.”

Staker’s group is developing CenUSA educational materials for students as young as the third grade level and all the way through high school. The bulk of the materials are targeted towards middle school students.

These materials have been tested throughout the summer in classrooms to gage their accessibility and interest from youth audiences.
Development and design for the project is nearly complete and now the C6 team is working on finishing the programming with the help of the interns, the majority of whom are staying on with the team with the exception of Carlson. The C6 team hopes to complete the game and materials by this fall if all goes as planned.

At the 2014 Iowa State Fair, the C6 team introduced the C6 hero’s adventures to a broader audience. The C6 team also presented their work at CenUSA’s annual meeting in August. The project has had positive responses from students who are reacting well to the fun, interactive way of learning and to the heroic C6 character.

The C6 team has completed the first two chapters of the e-book and is finishing up the third chapter and the graphics. The e-book offers the opportunity to include more expansive text and educate an older youth demographic. This book will go deeper into the material and expand on the ideas from the application and game. The team looks to spread awareness and promote knowledge gain while allowing fun and interactive activities for the future farmers and the leaders of tomorrow.

What adventures lie ahead for our superhero, C6? Check out the game, application, and e-books coming this fall or, in the spirit of digital learning, stay up to date by following  @cenusabioenergy or @C6BioFarm on twitter!