Enlarge / Awesome Minecraft architecture by Arsian qchronod.

Two chemists, a materials scientist and a game developer (all professors), have created a Minecraft expansion designed to sneakily teach chemistry and engineering concepts. They used the mod as part of a college course and found preliminary results that suggest it works reasonably well.

The goal, the group writes in Nature Chemistry, was to create an educational game that didn’t feel like work, but rather would “excite [students] so much that they would consume it without needing to be assigned it.” The Polycraft World expansion had two central guiding principles: “the science we add must be accurate, and it must add something fun to the game.”

Much like vanilla Minecraft, Polycraft World requires players to combine materials to generate items, but it adds in accurate chemical processes to get there. “If you combine the right reactants (in a chemically balanced way) you will get a new material such as Kevlar,” the researchers explain. They wanted to create a strong natural incentive to learn the practical concepts by allowing players to generate items like jetpacks and flamethrowers. Polycraft World uses an online wiki to teach users how to play, as in vanilla Minecraft.

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