National Highways + Minecraft = young engineers heaven

06/09/2021
Dominic Browne

As part of its educational outreach, National Highways (formerly Highways England) has enlisted the help of Minecraft, the world’s best-selling video game, to inspire the next generation of engineers.

From Monday (6 September) students across the country will be able to explore three proposed national road schemes, which have been created in the game - the proposed Lower Thames Crossing, A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements and the A303 past Stonehenge.

(The game does not appear to have a judicial review simulator to give the full Stonehenge scheme experience.)

Five games and a creative mode have been developed, along with lesson plans that teachers can use with their students aged 7-11 (key stage 2) and 11-14 (key stage 3), to help students get a sense of the range of skills involved in these road schemes, including: archaeology, biology, ecology, civil engineering, communications technology and coding. 

The five activities include:

  • Lower Thames Crossing – Tunnel Digging: Students will be using a Minecraft model of the proposed LTC tunnel to learn about tunnelling and excavate and build a portion of the tunnel.
  • Lower Thames Crossing – Signs game: Using a model of a different section of the planned LTC scheme, students will be using MakeCode to programme road signs to respond to different scenarios, including severe weather and flooding.
  • A428 Black to Caxton Gibbet improvements – Natural Habitats game: Students will be using a section of the Caxton Gibbet roundabout to create a new stretch of road whilst keeping animal habitats safe. (*Not available at launch)
  • A303 Stonehenge – Across the Ages: Students will be taken on an historic journey through different time periods with Stonehenge as the backdrop, including; Mesolithic Era, Neolithic Era, Bronze Age, Roman Britain, WW1, present day, and the planned A303 Stonehenge road scheme.
  • A303 Stonehenge – Biodiversity game: Using a Minecraft model of a green bridge section of the proposed scheme, students will explore the biodiversity of the area by photographing the flora and fauna in the landscape.

The educational package is aligned to the national curriculum and is available to all teachers and schools, the only requirement is that they have access to Microsoft Education Centre.

Natalie Jones, National Highways talent delivery lead, 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. In real life these are multi-million pound structures that are carefully designed and then built by experts.'

Each proposed scheme also has a Creative Mode aimed for use by schools during lunchtime or after school clubs. The creative game will ask a different set of questions, and students can spend as much time as they want building and designing things in relation to the questions.

The Minecraft maps and games were created by Blockbuilders C.I.C., which aims to engage young people with planning, the environment and local history using Minecraft.

Megan Leckie, co-director at BlockBuilders Youth Engagement, said: 'We are very proud of the unique educational games we have created with National Highways, using Minecraft Education Edition. 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.'

To discover more about National Highways Minecraft STEM learning package, to receive the educational resource pack or register interest in National Highways holding a Minecraft workshop with the developers at your school, visit - highwaysengland.co.uk/minecraft.

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