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National Highways Uses Minecraft

Schoolteachers are now using a version of Minecraft, the best-selling video game of all time, to inspire a new generation of ‘talented engineers and scientists’. The idea is to give any budding James Dyson, Dame Sarah Gilbert or Isambard Kingdom Brunel, access to a sandbox game environment in which classroom students can explore real-life National Highways Road projects.

Released on 6th of September 2021, this ground-breaking collaboration between Minecraft and National Highways (formerly Highways England) is an education package complete with lesson plans aligned to the UK National Curriculum. Schools and educators can access the material via the Microsoft Education Centre.

The content is suitable for students at NC key stage 2 (ages 7-11) and NC key stage 3 (ages 11-14) and showcases the diverse range of skills demanded of today’s highway engineers and their teams.

All game materials have been created by Blockbuilders C.I.C., who specialise in using Minecraft to help young people engage with planning, and the history of their local community.

Talking about this contemporary mode of learning, Blockbuilders Youth Engagement Co-Director Megan Leckie said: “Creative platforms such as these open up a whole new world of learning for young people, where they can be directly engaged with their local environment and find out more about engineering.”

For students, the standout feature of Minecraft’s game-inspired learning material is its authenticity. Just like any would-be car purchaser, students don’t just get to look around car showroom and dealerships – they get a hands-on opportunity to ‘test drive’ mass road projects for real.

For example, one game activity focuses upon tunnel digging for the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC). Gamers can design, excavate, and build one virtual section of LTC tunnelling, learning a lot about the whole process. There is a further LTC Signs Game module in which students are asked to programme context responsive road signage to warn road users about dangerous driving conditions like floods.

This practical approach is replicated in other Minecraft game module looking at the planning and delivery of multi-million-pound schemes such as the LTC tunnel mentioned above, the transformation of the A303 at Stonehenge, and the proposed Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet A428 improvements, looking at such schemes in the planning stage will have enormous educational benefits.

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Young people understand that such long awaited major upgrades will impact road safety, something which is sure to interest motor insurance policy providers and other parts of the motor trade industry. Yet beyond this, these projects illustrate the high-level of skills and expertise required in fields such as engineering, science, and computer coding, to name just a few.

Welcoming the launch, National Highways Talent Delivery Lead Natalie Jones said: “We want to inspire the next generation of talented engineers and scientists, on whom the country’s infrastructure and national economy will one day depend. With the help of Minecraft and the in-game activities, students will get first-hand experience of what would go into building a huge bridge or digging a giant tunnel.”

And noting the wider implications of this promising initiative, she added: “These skills and expertise help to create the motorways and main roads that keep us all moving, whether going to work, delivering goods or keeping families and friends connected.”