New partnership aims to develop maths computer game

Academics at the University of the Highlands and Islands are collaborating with a Shetland-based software company to develop a game which boosts pupils’ maths skills. Students and staff from Moray College UHI’s computing and maths departments are working with Mesomorphic Ltd to create Algorismus, an innovative computer game which aims to help students learn maths outside school.

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Moray College UHI

The three-month project has received £7500 backing from the Scottish Funding Council and the university through the innovation voucher scheme. Innovation vouchers are awarded to partnerships between business and academia looking to develop new products, processes or services.

The Algorismus game will take the form of a role-playing game where the player progresses through a dungeon, fighting monsters and collecting items to help them along the way. Players will solve maths-based puzzles when they encounter monsters, with more success achieved depending on the speed and accuracy of the player’s answers.

The collaboration with Mesomorphic Ltd will provide opportunities for students on the University of the Highlands and Islands’ BSc (Hons) applied software development, BSc (Hons) computing and BSc (Hons) interactive media degrees to develop their skills on a real-life project. Mesomorphic will also provide work experience placements and run a series of guest lectures and learning lunches so students can learn about working in the software development industry.

It is hoped the project will also generate local employment opportunities in Shetland by commissioning local artists, voiceover actors, film makers and musicians to contribute to the production of the game.

Speaking about the project, Dr Malcolm Clark, Programme Leader for the university’s computing and interactive media degrees, explained: “We are excited to be working with Mesomorphic on this innovative project. Recent studies have found that Scotland has skills shortages in finance, secondary teaching and software development - areas which are reliant on maths and numeracy skills. There are also concerns that COVID-19 may have affected pupil attainment. This project aims to address these issues, while giving our students the valuable experience of working on a real-life project. It is an excellent example of the way the university is supporting the recovery of our region following the pandemic as we work with employers, communities and learners to respond to their needs.”

Barnaby Mercer, Technical Director and founder of Mesomorphic Ltd, commented: “Algorismus is an exciting opportunity for Mesomorphic to pull together local talent in digital art, music and software development. Shetland is ideally suited to capitalise on the digital market in a post-covid economy and this project is the first of many. Our ambition is to create jobs and opportunities within Shetland that play to the work/life, tech/nature balance afforded by our location.”

Shetland-based artist Matthew Laurenson added: “I think Algorismus offers us a chance to make a real difference to people suffering from ‘mathemaphobia’! A mixture of academic research, programming wizardry, artistic creativity and buckets of imagination will, I believe, lead to something truly special. This island is full of creatives, so we won't be short of talent to leverage.”