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Fossilized sloth dung is a special fossil find in the new computer simulation game Fossil Finder!

Dig for fossils and learn about geologic time with a new computer game developed by undergraduate students at the UT-based National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS).

Primarily aimed for students in grades 6 to 8, Fossil Finder! teaches the fundamentals of scientific notation, exponents as well as the concepts of geological time scales and the increasing complexity of life over time.

Three undergraduate students developed the computer simulation game during an eight-week summer research program at NIMBioS while under the co-leadership of Susan Riechert, Distinguished Service Professor in the UT Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Players travel in a mining elevator at a fossil excavation site to collect fossils from different geologic periods. While they race against the clock to dig through rock and find fossils, they must convert whole number years to scientific notation and vice versa in order to move their mining elevator between corresponding rock layers.

Another game, Cambrian Sea Explorer, which introduces players to the evolutionary history of biodiversity, is under development.

“The idea is to offer children novel learning experiences that are structured as entertaining games rather than merely tutorials and exercises,” said Riechert, who was one of the mentors on the project.

Read more on the NIMBioS website.