Initial research for the project included studies on specific ethnic and social groups in the Rio Grande region. These findings can be found in Claudia Santiago's Constructing Negotiated Meaning and Knowledge for the Sol y Agua Project's Role-Playing Adventure Game Focused on Sustainability Problems in the El Paso-Rio Grande Area. The data gathered has been used to target a specific demographic as audience for the game: minorities in STEM, specifically Hispanics and Latinos.
The game had to have a strong educational base. To fulfill this requirement, specific standards from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) were identified and used to create activities for the game. These standards were mapped to activities and can be found here. By utilizing the standards for activity design and development, we ensure that the activities are age and grade appropriate.
The team wanted to incorporate aspects of different interactive technologies to enhance the learning environment of the students. One of such technologies is real-world data visualization. This visualizations were created using Data Driven Documents (D3). These visualizations could provide students with access to data from around the world. Another example of immersive technologies is the virtual laboratory developed for the game. This environment enables students to interact with virtual 3D objects to conduct scientific experiments. This virtual lab could potentially bridge the gap between technical educational standards and classroom resources.
To maintain the interest of the students, the team decided to create a well-rounded user experience. The user experience is separated into two components: visual and auditory. The visual component consists in having a cohesive, intuitive, attractive, and interactive user interface. Various usability tests were conducted to develop a rich and effective user interface. The auditory component of the user experience consisted in the brainstorming, creation, evaluation and modification of original pieces. These pieces are used to enhance the user interface and interaction, and thus creating a multisensorial user experience.
The development of the project was conducted following software engineering principles and practices. This lead to the development of a gamification software design that allows the game to be extensible and modifiable. The development of the project revolves around the development of different activities, that extend the game. The team is currently in the process of developing a gamification framework derived from the software design.