Do it Yourself: Simple Simulation Design with the Blender Game Engine

Hey all. I will be giving a presentation at the Irish Games Based Learning Symposium this June on the use of the Blender Game Engine to create simulations for education.


Here is the abstract:

Do it Yourself: Simple Simulation Design with the Blender Game Engine
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Simulations can be indispensable tools for educators. They can be used to effectively illustrate concepts that are too challenging or subtle for traditional pedagogical media. They can stand in for demonstrations that are either impossible or too dangerous to perform in the classroom. And, most importantly, they can be used to enrich and deepen understanding of familiar phenomena by providing the student with a specially augmented lens through which to glimpse. However, despite their widespread use and great educational value, the design and development of these excellent tools are generally left in the hands of non-educators or educators with specialized programming knowledge. Without the ability to tailor simulations for their own use, educators are left to pick amongst “canned” applications that are only loosely related to the exact principle they wish to illustrate for their students. There is hope, however. Blender is a powerful cross-platform and open source modelling tool which allows for the creation of impressive interactive simulations in a matter of minutes. Blender’s drag-and-drop logic interface and python scripting language provides novice users with a simple way to design their own simulations without having to write a single line of code whilst granting experienced users the full power of an industry standard 3D computer graphics application complete with built-in physics and game engine. Using a simple physical system, the damped harmonic oscillator, as an example, this tutorial presents a general framework for instructors and students alike to design their own simulations using the Blender Game Engine. Utilizing a basic yet elegant combination of elementary python scripting and logic-brick wiring, this tutorial explains the basics of getting 3D objects to move according to the laws of motion of the physical system, how to manipulate and experiment with the physical properties of that system, and how to collect raw data on the system as it plays out in the virtual environment.