1 Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Instituto de Investigación en Informática LIDI, Facultad de Informática (ARGENTINA)
2 Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Facultad de Informática (ARGENTINA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN18 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 7542-7548
ISBN: 978-84-09-02709-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2018.1759
Conference name: 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2018
Location: Palma, Spain
In recent years there has been a marked interest in the development of computational thinking at different educational levels.

Computational thinking is a skill that we should all develop, and does not focus only on the area of Information Technology. It involves a method of approaching the solution of problems, representing them as an information process with an algorithmic solution. Computational thinking is an approach that involves the development of metacognitive skills in students by acquiring the ability to break down problems into small parts in order to solve them by means of a computer. It is considered to be part of the intellectual "heart and soul" of 21st century science and, therefore, is one of the essential skills of the 21st century workforce.

AstroCode is a serious game, aimed at introducing players to basic programming concepts and skills and bringing them closer to computational thinking.

The game has 3 basic components:
1) the website from where you can download the game and users can register,
2) the game in Story Mode and Custom Mode and 3) a tool for creating custom programming scenarios.

The game in Story Mode, presents the adventures of an astronaut who travels through space, but due to a malfunction of his ship must make a forced landing on an unknown planet. Now this astronaut must recover the lost pieces of his ship, and for it he will go through different scenarios where he must program his robots to recover them (programming scenarios). In each scenario a robot (from 4 robots available) must be selected in order to solve the scenario. This is the first challenge for the player, analyze the set of skills (instructions) of each robot, to see which one could get the solution of the scenario.

The game in Custom Mode offers the possibility of accessing scenarios created by users with ad-hoc levels of complexity. These scenarios are created on the website through the scenario creation tool (scenario generator). It is a web tool that allows the definition of a matrix of a certain size and the selection of blocks and pieces of the ship to place in it. The blocks that can be found in the scenarios are: water, wall, earth, grass, chest, and piece of the ship. In this way the challenges are located within the scenario. This Custom Mode allows, for example, teachers to prepare scenarios for their students according to the level of each group.

During the last year, various experiences with AstroCode have been carried out. In particular, this paper presents the experience of the pre-entry course to the School of Computer Science of the National University of La Plata. In general, the students of this course have different approaches to computational thinking. The possibilities of AstroCode were investigated to help them in this first stage of approach to the development of computational thinking skills. For this, a methodology of contrasted groups was applied, where 3 commissions of the pre-entry course worked in the first week with AstroCode and the rest with a printed practice with exercises, then all continued the course with the same methodology. The results obtained from this experience and the main conclusions are analyzed and presented here.
Serious Game, Programming Skills, Experiences, 3D Games.