Two recent graduates have created a business to use instructional video games to teach neuroscience.
Jake Spanswick and Quinn Byron-Dyer, who both studied computer games design at the University of South Wales, established Blank Pixel Games last November.
The duo’s maiden product focuses on the workings of a neuroscience laboratory for high school and undergraduate students, drawing upon technical demonstrations and supporting theoretical material to create an accurate simulation.
Spanswick said: “The pandemic has resulted in a drop in student numbers across many institutions as pupils consider whether they want to study online but demand for neuroscientists is growing.
“For students completely new to the field of neuroscience, the pandemic has made it difficult to gain lab experience and, more importantly, learning the scientific techniques. Our virtual environment helps students to get familiar with lab techniques, theoretical content, and equipment.
“The benefit of using a virtual lab is less waste, particularly when training students. The virtual learning tool means they can reset and learn from their mistakes much sooner and jump straight back into an experiment.”
Spanswick said that the virtual lab will benefit gaming-loving teenagers and excite them about studying neuroscience, as well as supporting teaching when lab access isn’t possible.
Additionally, the tech could help pupils living in remote areas without access to facilities or “plug the gaps” created by lockdowns.
“Right now, we’re working to create a full virtual walkthrough of the ‘electrophysiology technique’ which is used to record electrical activity in the brain,” he said.
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The pair recently took part in the first inter-university bootcamp hosted by Dundee-based entrepreneurial support service UNpreneur. The University of Glasgow was one of eight UK institutions taking part.
Beforehand, the two graduates secured £2,000 from the University of South Wales’ Springboard Start-up Fund. The bootcamp was fully funded by the participating universities and was free for the students and graduates who took part.
Participants attended six weekly two-hour workshops which covered a range of themes: develop the right mindset to run a business; finding customers; market products and services; setting goals through increased self-awareness; build and develop a team; making connections to gain advice and investment.
Following the success of the pilot project, UNpreneur and lead partner Sheffield Hallam University are already planning an expansion of the bootcamp for 2022, to include more universities and in person delivery.
Spanswick added: “Taking part in the bootcamp was great because it brought us together with more than 170 other people who were starting their own companies or who had ideas for businesses. Quinn and I were focused on our product, but the bootcamp helped us to think about all the other aspects of our business too.”