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Revolutionising education through gamification

As part of a CSIRO Industry PhD (iPhD) program collaboration between Griffith University, Hyper Theory and CSIRO, Biobot Academy has set its sights on leveraging gamification to empower the next generation with essential social-emotional learning skills.

At the heart of the project lies a visionary goal: breaking the cycle of domestic violence through the development of an online platform that harnesses the power of gamification to nurture children's positive behaviours. Belinda Eccles, the founder and creative force behind industry partner Hyper Theory explains, "We are aiming to capture important data to ensure the game continues to be developed with the right components included and of course, that it is making a difference.“

A collaborative dream: combining expertise for lasting impact

Key to the development of Biobot Academy is the research collaboration between the project partners. CSIRO's iPhD Program brings together an industry partner, a university and Australia's leading science agency, CSIRO, to co-develop a four-year industry-focused PhD project. It provides PhD students with a unique skill set to focus on impact driven research.

Kristin Magarry is the iPhD student working on this project. "My project is all about empathy. In a nutshell, I'm part of a team creating an innovative educational program that helps children improve their empathy and self-regulation skills by using technology and fun games to engage them. I feel very strongly that having the ability to make authentic connections with others and lead with kindness is essential to a person’s happiness, and so for me this project is really about trying to build a kinder future for the next generation of kids."

"I'm lucky to be able to learn and work with a great team of industry and academic experts from multiple disciplines."

Bridging academia, industry and research: a recipe for success

One of the aims of the iPhD program is to provide students with opportunities to develop translational research skills, establish professional networks and increase future career prospects.

Alana Delaforce, Team Leader of the CSIRO Health Implementation Science team and project supervisor, highlights the unique advantages of the CSIRO iPhD program. "It provides the PhD candidate with exposure to real world problems, in addition to providing valuable work experience that is not usually gained in a traditional PhD model."

As PhD student Kristin explains, "For me, I want to eventually be able to carve out my own niche working on the border between industry and academia. I love the way academia challenges you to innovate and discover, but I also love the way industry brings it back to the practical…the idea of how does this make a real impact on people?"

Hyper Theory's Belinda Eccles notes, "Students who participate in an industry PhD will gain not only invaluable research and evaluation skills, but also in-field experience. Applying their research to real life scenarios to further evaluate and obtain greater insight can be difficult without access to businesses actively working in the field every day."

Griffith University supervisor Associate Professor Timo Dietrich outlined Biobot Academy's multifaceted benefits for iPhD students. "Engaging in a project that combines gamification and technology with social-emotional learning offers an opportunity to work on the cutting edge of educational research." Timo also points out that "working on an industry project opens doors to professional contacts, industry insights, and potential future collaborations. Together we can achieve more and maximise impact – in this case empowering teachers to more effectively teach social emotional learning skills in children to create a kinder world."

Charting a path towards a kinder future

With Kristin's research and help from all three partners, Biobot Academy will develop online modules for school aged children in years 5-6 that support the development of social and emotional coping skills. The modules have been mapped to the Australian Curriculum, and aim to equip students with tools to maintain their mental health.

The collaborative synergy between Griffith University, Hyper Theory, and CSIRO creates a unique blend of expertise that promises to yield positive results. The partnership enables the translation of research insights into practical solutions that address real-world challenges. Alana Delaforce elaborates, "Partnering with universities and industry provides a holistic approach to support opportunities to translate research to practice."

As the project progresses, it will demonstrate the potential of collaborative initiatives that transcend traditional boundaries. Biobot Academy's innovative approach, which blends educational innovation, technology and research, will help serve as a model for driving positive societal change. Through this collaboration, the partners aim to equip children with the tools they need to grow up with empathy, kindness and resilience, setting the stage for a brighter future.

In a world that yearns for innovative solutions to pressing social challenges, Biobot Academy has the potential for educational tools that make a significant impact through the community.

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