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Cover image for Making Games with Autistic Students: A Partnership between the National Museum of Computing, Track.org, and Azure Advocates
Microsoft Azure

Making Games with Autistic Students: A Partnership between the National Museum of Computing, Track.org, and Azure Advocates

jenlooper profile image Jen Looper ・3 min read

On the Academic Team within Cloud Advocacy at Microsoft, we have the privilege of working with educators and students of all kinds. Some are doing cutting-edge research at top-tier schools, others are just starting their learning careers and trying out different kinds of software as they progress along their individual learning paths. We are also able to talk to the Museums and Libraries sector and I have been leading a Museums and Libraries pilot program, now in its second year.

We have built prototypes for archives, helped with expositions, and had a long and rewarding engagement with the Cooper Hewitt Museum. I published Microsoft's first museum-focused Learn module. It's been fun and very rewarding for those of us who love museums!

Not the least of our exciting engagements has been the work we have done as partners with Track, a charity in the UK that works to help autistic adults find employment, and the National Museum of Computing located on the historic Bletchley Park estate. TNMOC is home to many historic computers; perhaps its most famous one is its reconstructed 'Bombe', the computer that Alan Turing used at the Park to crack the Enigma code and shorten WWII.

You can take a 3D virtual tour of the museum.

While working with Thomas Cliffe of Track and Jacqui Garrad, the Museum Director, we devised a plan to help keep students engaged with the museum even while it is closed due to COVID: a series of workshops and coaching on how to develop games.

Before meeting the students, we organized a department-wide workshop led by Thomas on how to best serve the needs of Autistic learners, especially in an online teaching context. This training proved invaluable and very moving for many attendees.

We then progressed to creating workshops with the idea that we would be able to provide individualized coaching as needed, to help students build and demo their games. We provided office hours so students could check in and find help with any problems.

GitHub logo jlooper / bletchley-park-workshop

A workshop hub for Bletchley Park, the National Museum of Computing in the UK

Build Games with Azure Advocates!

Would you like to try your hand at building games using various methods? In this repo, we would like to list some projects for you to get started in game development.

Game Type Level
MakeCode Arcade MakeCode Arcade includes sample games to create using a web-based drag-and-drop interface or by writing JavaScript or Python code. Pick a game tutorial and use either 'blocks' or 'Python or JavaScript' to get started. Full instructions are 👉in this file Beginner
Minecraft on MakeCode Use 'blocks' or 'Python' or 'JavaScript' to get started coding your own Minecraft environment. Use the Education Edition if your school is an affiliate, or the standard MakeCode Minecraft (Windows only) to set up the game Beginner
Babylon.js Playground In this browser-based playground, get to know 3D programming using TypeScript or JavaScript. Use the inspector to work with the interface Intermediate
Storytelling Game Engine

We began with the idea that we could reuse the base engine that powers our 'Mystery' series of games. Students could create a winding 'choose-your-own-adventure' type story by adding links and markdown files. We began with a workshop on how to build such a game, and realized that different types of games were also of interest, as the local setup for individualized code development proved challenging for attendees. So Chris rapidly built a second two-part workshop using Microsoft MakeCode. Huge kudos to Chris for this rapid pivot to create workshops to better suit the students!

Finally, we were excited to see the students demo their work in an online demo day! We were happy to see that one student built a totally customized maze game. Another built an amusing pirate game using the VuePress game engine. So in the end, we were treated to two very interestingly individualized demos:

Stevie demos her maze game, built in MakeCode

Christopher shows off his fun pirate game, yo ho!

We are excited to enter a new phase in our partnership to showcase game development as a potential career path for students and career-changers, giving them friendly access to Microsoft employees who are delighted to see the cool projects they build using exciting new technologies.

"This afternoon was simply a fantastic and inspiring opportunity to see how the smallest things that we all do together and collaborate bring people out of their shells and make a huge difference." --Jacqui Garrad

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