Tuesday, May 8, 2012

USS Ambition gives students a hi-tech digital learning experience

This Friday, some 4800 students will board the U.S.S. Ambition Super Carrier aboard NAS Pensacola and get a taste of adventure.

This is a immersive educational experience but it's not at all like a classroom, is it? Not at all.

When students arrive they will receive guides explaining the game. The program was designed by the same "Imagineers" who created some of the Disney parks' most famous rides.

As students enter the U.S.S. Ambition, they're assigned a team and begin playing a massive, interactive, multi-part game.

Mark Rhodes worked for Disney for around 25 years and also developed attractions for Universal Studios. He wrote scripts for famous rides like Splash Mountain, Spiderman, and Harry Potter.

But the National Flight Academy presented a unique challenge.

"I was just looking to create a fun story and that was about it, and the more I started working with the teachers and seeing the educational side to this and how they were laying this I knew these guys were so brilliant and I needed to step my game up," he said.

The whole experience is designed to teach math, science, and geography to middle and high school students.

Rhodes created a super carrier setting where students test a new kind of aircraft. "It will fly like a jet, it will hover like a helicopter, and it will land and drive like an all terrain vehicle and what they've got to do is sort of shake it down."

Unlike the theme park adventures he's designed before this game constantly changes throwing obstacles at the players to keep them thinking.

"Suddenly small rain storms turn into tropical storms or suddenly become hurricanes. What might be a smooth easy flight might be interrupted by a group of seagulls smashing into your plane," he said.

Rhodes didn't just write the script. He helped transform the building into a ship by focusing on small details that make the whole experience seem real. "Those of us from the theme park world said wait a second. We're going to have the kids walking by that. Once we go into play this ship has left port, how come I can look through that door and see what's out there?"

The U.S.S Ambition will officially open on June 3, but the commissioning ceremony is this Friday at 8:30 a.m. Astronauts Mark Kelly and Neil Armstrong will speak at the event.

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