Researchers are using Minecraft to teach kids about diabetes

A team of researchers is using Minecraft to create a multi-scale model of the human body that gives students an inside look at diabetes – what it is, how it functions, and the organs and functions it impacts. The model is massive and allows students to travel into the human digestive system and then shrink down to the cellular level.

The model is set up as a guided first-person tour, and it’s an impressively complex Minecraft map. Players begin by dropping down into the mouth of a giant human figure, and can then take a Redstone-powered minecart into the stomach, where they’ll have to hop around green food globs floating in acid. From there it’s on to the small intestine, with a detour into the pancreas available for more information on insulin production.

Take that turn, and you’re teleported to a maze that represents the cells of the pancreas, where you’ll have to find one of the Islets of Langerhans, the insulin-producing regions of the pancreas. Here you’ll be teleported into a blood vessel to follow the path taken by insulin and glucose in the bloodstream.

Everything is helpfully labeled with signboards, which help guide your way through the twists and turns of the tour. There’s also a helpful video that explains each step along the path:

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Because this was made by scientists, there’s also a slide presentation:

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It’s a huge project, and includes work from scholars at UWE Bristol, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Hull, and Lancaster University with support from a grant by the Royal Society of Chemistry Outreach Fund. The scientists say they’ve learned that Minecraft can “act as a hook for children to engage with science topics,” and that kids who use the game for learning wind up gaining better understanding of the topics addressed.

If you’d like to try out the model yourself, you can find the address to write to over at the UWE Bristol’s blog post explaining the project. You can also help the project by visiting this survey page at UWE Bristol and providing feedback through the online form. And be sure to look at our list of amazing Minecraft maps to find more fantastical worlds to explore.