Particle Physics Role-Playing Games in introductory physics courses
March 31, 2022
An 18-hour course taught in role-playing and distance learning mode is presented. The course was
designed in order to test innovative methods to engage students in active learning, to foster their
identification with what is being studied and to boost their motivation in studying introductory
physics courses at the Politecnico of Torino. Students are immersed in different settings and are
asked to play the role of a physicist. As they continue in the adventure and overcome challenges,
they gain skills (represented by experience points) and advance in ability. This advancement is
expressed in terms of an increase in their level. The Role-Playing Game is set in the world of
particle physics: from the neutrino hypothesis (1930s) to the study of collisions between pions
and Helium nuclei (2000s). Students are exposed to experimental data (both simulated and from
real accelerator experiments) and are asked to apply what they have learnt in the Physics I course.
The central concepts around which the entire course revolves are the conservation laws (Energy
and momentum). Students are organised into groups in order to stimulate teamwork and the use
of soft skills. When a new concept or an in-depth study is required as a new tool to succeed
in the game, students are invited to develop it independently through a problem-solving activity
designed by the instructor.
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