VA Tech Creates Virtual Minecraft Museum to Teach Engineering

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A team of faculty and students at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA Tech) have developed a unique online resource to inform students of the many academic and career opportunities available in the field of engineering. The new Minecraft Museum of Engineering features a series of virtual exhibits that use the popular video game to teach about the field’s specialties.

The idea to create the innovative student-built website came from Ben Chambers, an associate professor of practice in the university’s department of Engineering Education. Chambers is a member of a committee of VA Tech engineering faculty and advisers dedicated to raising awareness of the large variety of options.— such as chemical, electrical, or mechanical engineering — available to first-year engineering students who have yet to declare an academic major.   

The wildly popular game of Minecraft has a reported 140 million active users worldwide and has already been adapted for educational purposes when it comes to teaching computer programming and design. Chambers believes it will be effective for demonstrating engineering concepts to first-year students with limited knowledge of the field, according to a university press release.

The VA Tech Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Creation supported the development of the museum with a $10,000 grant. A group of mining and minerals engineering students have undertaken development of the site with the assistance of faculty member Kray Luxbacher and academic adviser Michelle Crotto. The team launched the project in spring 2021 and plans to create 13 “wings” featuring various exhibits. The first wing, for example, features several that showcase large-scale mining operations.

The university has also launched a competition for all VA Tech students to submit new Minecraft designs that highlight any type of engineering discipline. Chambers says he hopes to create an annual competition for both students and alumni to develop new exhibits.

“It’s better to bring in multiple perspectives, different ideas, and existing skills,” Chambers stated in the press release. “We didn’t want the museum to be static. The students love to do it, and it also sets the stage for continuous development and improvement.”

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This article was published in our September 2021 issue.