The Ethanol Racer project originated as a byproduct of the AgCabLab where participants get to drive a tractor simulator. The idea was to create an interactive display that informs adults and kids about common ethanol topics. Where does ethanol come from? How is it made? Is it safe for vehicle use?
We envisioned a platform where users could grab hold of a real steering wheel akin to the AgCabLab and allow users to drive an ethanol fueled car as part of the learning process. It was decided that an old school arcade machine could meet our needs and a well used machine was purchased for prototyping.
A demo of the software was created and demoed to kids at fairs a potential funders of the project. Future work for the game will include taking the user from each stage of the ethanol production process from planting and harvesting to finally driving their car with the fuel they made.
Similar to the AgCabLab, the ethanol game will be setup at agriculture related events with heavy people traffic. A timer counts down for each user for the purpose of letting everyone have a try.
As the project blossoms and a set of machines are deployed to regional locations, business-type cards will be handed out to event attendees to play the online version and experience the full version of the game.
A prototype has been built and has been previewed at a number of locations such as Ag Day at the Pavillion in Sioux Falls, SD, Le Mars County Fair in Le Mars, IA, and the Red River Valley Fair in Fargo, ND. The enthusiasm shown from kids playing the game exceeded our expectations and fuels our excitement for developing the educational project further.
As stated, the prototype is built into an old arcade machine. The old circuit boards and power supplies were stripped out and replaced with a Mac Mini for it’s small form factor. The cabinet was initially repainted black but later a VCSU art student, Marcie Armstrong, painted both sides of the machine with corn, a race car, and finish flag graphics.
The first demo featured a Logitech USB steering wheel but the plastic construction proved unreliable. Currently, the arcade machine’s original buttons, steering potentiometers, and pedals are wired to an Arduino micro controller which acts as a gamepad when connected to a computer via USB.
To track understanding of ethanol a Web Application is being developed that will run in the game or stand-alone.
Example responses are demonstrated here as App Data.
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- Minnesota Cornerstone