New app, educational game gets its inspiration from phytoplankton

Marine phytoplankton are the inspiration for a new mobile application and educational game launched by University of Maine assistant professor of new media and intermedia Gene Felice.

The app, called Phyto Heroes, is an outcome of an interactive art exhibit Oceanic Scales, developed by Felice and Jennifer Parker at University of California Santa Cruz, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Phyto Heroes explores phytoplankton as a scientific and artistic research subject through an interactive game system designed for third through fifth grade students and beyond, supplemented with 10 downloadable lesson plans for instructors. The goal is to illustrate how environmental factors such as pH, temperature and nitrogen levels affect the ocean.

Phytoplankton play an important role in supporting life on Earth. As producers of carbon, these microscopic algae are the first link in the oceanic food chain, supporting the world’s food and, heroically, producing more than half of the oxygen breathed by humans.

To create the app, Felice worked with UMaine developers and with Parker. The work was supported by Maine Sea Grant, the National Endowment for the Arts, Epsilon and Alliance Data.