Finnish start-up wants to teach 5-year-olds quantum physics

Finnish start-up wants to teach 5-year-olds quantum physics

Lightneer, made up of former employees of Angry Birds maker Rovio, officially launched its science-learning game Big Bang Legends globally in Singapore this week.

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SINGAPORE: Imagine your five-year-old being able to tell you about quarks, protons and the periodic table. Not a big deal, until you realise those are fundamental components of particle physics.

But instead of having to learn it by rote memorisation in class when they are older, young children can be exposed to these basics through a mobile game created by Finnish learning game studio Lightneer.

The basic gameplay is simple: Collect three quarks to form a proton, which in turn is used to create atom heroes (different elements on the periodic table). Then use these to blast away pesky antimatter monsters that threaten to make everything disappear.

The game - called Big Bang Legends - officially made its debut in Singapore this week, and it is available for free on Apple’s App Store. Alternatively, you can pay a monthly S$1.49 to go ad-free and receive video learning content customised by professors from Oxford and CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Lightneer is led by Lauri Jarvilehto, formerly from Angry Birds maker Rovio, and it is co-founded by Laura Konttori and Peter Vesterbacka, both also Rovio alums. It also counts Rovio co-founder Niklas Hed as one of its backers. It includes among its advisors, professors from Oxford and Harvard, as well as CERN’s head of global outreach Rolf Landua.

“Five years ago we’d joke that one day we’ll teach quantum physics to five-year-olds. Now we’re seeing five-year-olds playing Big Bang Legends and having conversations about quarks, protons and atoms. It’s pretty amazing,” said CEO Jarvilehto.

STARTING IN SINGAPORE

While it tested the mobile game in Finland during the development stage, Lightneer decided to introduce the game in Singapore first as it considered both countries world leaders in education and technology.

“Finland and Singapore are world leaders in education and technology, both top the global PISA scores, but with wholly different mindsets. It's great to launch our first game in Singapore bringing the two leaders together,” said Vesterbacka.

Jarvilehto also told Channel NewsAsia that while Finland’s focus is on playfulness and intrinsic motivation, Singapore’s emphasis is on hard work. “We believe by working closely with the amazing schools and educators in Singapore we can pave the way for future learning that combines the best of both these worlds.”

He added that he is rolling the game out country by country to be able to interact directly with its fans and to learn more about each nation’s educational thinking. For instance, it started a “playtest” of the game with the Stamford American International School here before its launch.

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Students from Stamford American International School trying out Big Bang Legends. (Photo: Lightneer/Twitter)

To back up its intention of wanting to teach quantum physics to the young, Jarvilehto said it will offer the subscription version of the game with additional learning content “to any school or library in Singapore that wants it free of charge”.

Besides Singapore, Lightneer intends to bring the game to Hong Kong and Japan, as well as Europe, the start-up added.

Asked if he has a target number of Singapore students Lightneer hopes to attract to Big Bang Legends, Jarvilehto said: “All of them.”

“The natural engagement in the game is very strong in conveying these concepts. And like our Oxford advisor Professor Marcus du Sautoy said, while us adults think particle physics is difficult to learn, these kids don’t know that and that’s why it’s surprisingly easy for them to grasp these basic concepts.”

Source: CNA/kk

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