Crafting our Future – Engineering the West in Minecraft

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If you could completely re-design your city, your street, your home, what would you do differently?

DETI Inspire at UWE have been exploring digitally engineering the West with local children, using the incredibly popular block-building video game Minecraft.

Why Minecraft?

Minecraft is the second-best selling video game of all time and extremely popular with children. Players place and break blocks with a wide range of appearances and properties, to build a huge variety of constructions. It’s easy to make changes to your builds and quickly visualise new ideas, much like computer-aided design (CAD) software used for digital engineering.

The game has proven to be a successful science communication tool, and evaluations undertaken by the Science Hunters project, based at UWE’s Science Communication Unit and Lancaster University, indicate that use of Minecraft both attracts children who might not otherwise have engaged with science learning, and successfully improves scientific knowledge and understanding after participating in sessions.

The West in Minecraft

The DETI Inspire team have taken things one step further, partnering with local design & engineering consultancy Atkins, and Science Hunters including Minecraft experts Dr Laura Hobbs and Jonathan Kim, to create a scale recreation of Bristol and Bath within the game, allowing local children to explore, build, re-design and re-engineer their very own cities!

The Roman Baths, an engineering highlight of the West in Minecraft world

Lewis Mould and Sam Collier, senior GIS consultants from Atkins, created a programme to convert Ordnance Survey data into a to-scale Minecraft world, allowing a highly detailed Bristol and Bath to be created – the West in Minecraft.

This new world was then populated with famous engineering landmarks such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Temple Meads station and the SS Great Britain, all expertly crafted by Jonathan Kim.

I enjoyed adapting and creating many of the real-life Bristol landmarks in Minecraft. I hope that exploring these landmarks will encourage students to develop their own ways of tackling engineering problems

Jonathan Kim, Science Hunters

STEM in the Community

DETI Inspire have been using this new Minecraft world at after school STEM clubs recently established in Lawrence Weston and Easton as part of a STEM in the Community project funded by UWE and the STEM Ambassador hub West England, in collaboration with local community groups in both areas.

The Bristol and Bath worlds are so detailed and thoughtfully created. The children have been discovering the area they live in and other iconic places such as Temple Meads and the Roman Baths. Most children already have a lot of experience with Minecraft so they adapted well to it. During our Pride themed week, the children built giant flags, rainbow farms and buildings.’

Cilpha James, STEM Ambassador
Enjoying sunset views of Bristol Harbour and the SS Great Britain

By re-creating these areas of Bristol within the game, children from both Lawrence Weston and Easton are able to explore the parts of their community that are familiar to them, piquing their interest and giving them power to reshape where they live.

Exploring new areas of the city through Minecraft also opens up opportunities for children to visit and talk about some of the city’s famous landmarks, many of which they may never have seen before, strengthening their knowledge and cultural connection with these areas and our city as a whole.

So far the new Minecraft world has been a huge success amongst the young people attending these STEM clubs. There has been much excitement at finding their own homes within the model city, re-building structures and adding to existing ones. Farms have been built on rooftops as the children have been encouraged to think about how they would re-design their city for a net zero future.

Giving young people access to these places and giving them power to reshape them, even if it is just in Minecraft, offers them the opportunity to imagine their world as being different to what it is now. We hope that planting the idea that we can have some control over our own environment will lead some young people to think about the relevance of design and engineering to their lives, and then perhaps on to thinking of themselves as designers and engineers of the future.

Liz Lister, STEM Ambassador Hub West England

A set of school resources to explore digital engineering this new Minecraft world are currently being developed by the DETI Inspire team for release next academic year. These 1-2 hour Minecraft lessons are currently being trialled with local primary schools, linking activities to the curriculum and drawing on several different subject areas to allow for a cross-curricular and rather unique learning experience.

For more information on The West in Minecraft please contact deti@uwe.ac.uk


DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre, in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & SimulationDigital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.

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