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  • Student Postmortem: Northeastern University's Shortfall Digital

    - Mark Sivak and Seth Sivak
  • What do engineering, automobile production, and innovation trees have to do with games? In the case of Shortfall Digital, they're all pieces of an educational game that started its life as a professor-made board game.

    Shortfall Digital has been under development for several years at the department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) at Northeastern University. Conceptually, the game started its life as a board game about environmentally benign manufacturing and the greening of the supply chain in automobile production.

    The original Shortfall board game was created, tested and assessed through an industrial engineering master's thesis funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The objective was to explore different ways of teaching engineering concepts and raising environmental awareness through collaborative and experiential learning.

    With additional funding from the NSF, a team of students and faculty revised the board game and created a second edition, drawing on their expertise from the departments of engineering, multimedia studies, and education departments, and with contracting work provided by Metaversal Studios.


    This version was tested with a group of undergraduate engineering students, who were subject to a pre-test and a post-test for knowledge retention, and a focus group discussion based on the gameplay. Their insights helped enhance the game and player roles and helped clarify how team play would work.

    During the spring of 2007, we joined the team as senior undergraduate mechanical engineering students and worked on the game as an independent study project in our final semester before graduation. Our objective in this independent study was to implement the adaptations suggested by previous play testing, either by revising the board game followed by more focus testing, or by developing a prototype computerized version. After some initial research on educational games and effective teaching and learning, we decided to create an electronic version. This prototype is the browser-based game, developed in Adobe Flash, and is the subject of this postmortem.



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