Summative Evaluation of Power Up! A Mobile Game for Maryland Science Center's Power Up! Exhibit
At the Maryland Science Center, a new permanent exhibition with a companion mobile game is focused on electricity. Multimedia Research, an independent evaluation firm, implemented a summative evaluation to assess how using the PowerUp! game in the exhibition influences engagement and knowledge acquisition. The evaluation collected timing and tracking observations and pre- and post-interview data from 18 ten-year-olds who used the game within the Power Up! exhibition area and 16 ten-year-olds who did not use the game. Game players experienced the Power Up! exhibition area differently from non-gamers. The Power Up! game utilizes a two-part design: a question and answer section that encourages use of individual floor exhibits and a subsequent “mobile exhibit” that independently reinforces content through informative card playing and powering up an energy-efficient house. The “mobile exhibit” of the game acted as an additional meaningful exhibit and was competitive with the floor exhibits in holding gamers’ attention and interest. Game players were more likely than non-gamers to visit non-interactive exhibits that presented game keycodes and more likely to skip exhibits that did not have keycodes. Game players remained in the exhibition area significantly longer than non-gamers; but due to their focus on the “mobile exhibit” activity, they visited floor exhibits for significantly shorter times on average; interacted physically with significantly fewer exhibits; and were observed significantly less often repeating activity rounds at exhibits, returning to exhibits, and observing other’s actions with exhibits. Game players enjoyed their experience as much as non-gamers and valued the game. On average, gamers and non-gamers rated equally the appeal of their experience in the exhibition area. Three-quarters of game players liked most the question and answer feature, half liked powering up their house, and one-third noted the appeal of the card playing feature. Participants felt that the Power Up! game helped them learn more about electricity, increased their attention to the exhibits and increased their activity in the exhibition area. Game players learned as much, and more, about electricity as non-gamers. Gamers and non-gamers demonstrated statistically equivalent gains in their recall of new information about electricity overall and in their more specific recall of energy sources that generate electricity and methods that move, control or change electricity. With respect to the content area about ways to use less electricity, for which the game presented more information than the exhibits, gamers significantly outperformed non-gamers in acquiring new knowledge. Overall, using the Power Up! game within the Power Up! exhibition has clear value in promoting appealing engagement and learning.