Facebook logo Twitter logo YouTube logo Podcast logo RSS feed logo

Repel the Invaders

Learning looks like fun as kids catch cyber-lampreys.

Learning looks like fun as kids catch cyber-lampreys.

In January, a class of fifth grade students from Lowell Elementary School had way too much fun embracing sea lamprey and pushing gobies around at the Visualization and Digital Imaging Lab on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus. They were beta-testing new technology, Repel the Invaders, while learning about invasive species and software design.

Repel the Invaders, a sort of virtual Lake Superior, relies on a projector, a camera, a computer, and whimsy. The projector displays an animated underwater scene, replete with some of the native and invasive animals found in Lake Superior. The camera records shadows crossing in front of the projection. The computer houses a program that allows the shadows to influence the virtual species’ distribution and behavior.

“We wanted to create an interactive experience that would draw people in and make them curious about the creatures of the Great Lakes,” said Lisa Fitzpatrick, Viz Lab Coordinator. Fitzpatrick conceptualized Repel the Invaders and worked with graduate research assistants Michele Clark (Computer Science) and Eric Stykel (Graphic Design) to make it a reality.

"Interactive computer projects are fun, and creating one with a narrative, a game and an educational purpose is unusual," said Fitzpatrick.

Although the fifth graders were at first wary, they quickly warmed up to the program doing their best to repel the invasive species, often helping each other catch and push the fish away. One student exclaimed, "That’s so cool!" as she watched her classmates and listened to Clark explain the program.

After each student had a turn, their teacher asked them questions, such as why invasive species aren’t good. One student responded, "Some, like zebra mussels, aren’t good for water because they eat up all the food." Marte Kitson, Minnesota Sea Grant’s aquatic invasive species specialist, agreed adding that zebra mussels also clog pipes, kill native mussels, and take over lake bottoms. Several of the students said that their favorite part of the interaction was trying to trap the fish, and one student voiced that his favorite part was “interacting with everything” on the screen. They also said they would like to see more fish. The students were asked which fish they recognized, and with a little help from their handouts, they named all species shown.

Minnesota Sea Grant began consulting on this project in June 2010 and is helping to broaden the reach of the project now that it is making its public debut. For more information about Repel the Invaders, contact Lisa Fitzpatrick at 218-726-8093, or visit www.d.umn.edu/vdil.


By Abi Kwiecinski
June 2011

Return to June 2011 Seiche



This page last modified on March 23, 2017     © 1996 – 2017 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
Facebook logo Twitter logo YouTube logo Podcast logo RSS feed logo
Logo: NOAA Logo: UMD Logo: University of Minnesota Logo: University of Minnesota Extension