Video games are fascinating and probably inescapable, attracting kids to consoles as bees to honey. In one way or another, video games have impacted many kids’ lives during the last decades, and presently, playing computer games is a favorite leisure activity for most young (and not so young) people. Whilst recreation activities, extremely immersive and addictive are a natural and understandable worry for parents and educators, computer games can teach young children to read and count, as well as help middle school students to learn about science and technology.

Moreover, computer games are also enabling the creation of “synthetic” or “simulated” environments from where scientific research, education and training, career development and life-long learning are possible and effective. Thus, computer games technology is getting an increasing importance in the development of valuable professional tools for scientists, engineers and educators [1].

It is exactly what the CReSTIC lab from the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne and Real Games, a Portuguese company, performed in a 3-year R&D project (2011-2014) partially founded by the French Education Ministry, by bringing a complete “virtual” house, called HOME I/O, into the classroom [2, 3]. HOME I/O is real time simulation software of a smart house and its surrounding environment, designed to cover a wide range of curriculum targets within Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, from secondary schools to universities.

Home automation is a growing trend that is becoming more and more popular and affordable every day. It improves our safety, security, convenience, comfort and it allows us to use energy in a more responsible and efficient way. With HOME I/O, kids, students and learners can raise awareness about energy efficiency, change behaviours and learn about new technologies. HOME I/O allows users to control 174 interactive devices (light, switch, heater, shutters, gate, garage door, alarm ) typically found in a real house, through a built-in Home Automation Console. HOME I/O can also be connected and controlled by external technologies, both hardware (PLC, micro controller ) and software (soft PLC, MATLAB, LabView ).

With state of the art in 3D graphics and FPS video game approach (first-person shooter), HOME I/O offers a unique learning experience with immersive and motivating hands-on activities for several educational and vocational areas. HOME I/O is a great tool for teachers to explore and develop engaging activities in a project-based learning methodology like STEM, where students analyze situations, search for answers and provide solutions.

Yes, learning automation and automatic control can be a game.

[1] :A. Magalhaes, B. Riera et B. Vigario

When Control Education Is the Name of the Game
Computer Games as Educational and Management Tools: Uses and Approaches, IGI Global, pp 185-205, 2012. 10.4018/978

[2] www.realgames.pt

[3] www.teachathomeio.com (French)

 

Article provided by
Bernard Riera
Unversité de Reims, Champagne-Ardenne
IFAC Technical Committee 4.5. Human Machine Systems