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‘Minecraft’ and AI at the forefront of teaching kids about climate change

Minecraft is the gift that keeps on giving, and now a clever AI has helped create an educational tool to teach young people about climate change, the environment and flood management.

Minecraft: Education Edition has been a tool for educators since 2016. However, a new series of games, collected together as RiverCraft, has been specifically assembled to teach young people about climate change and flood management.

This new Minecraft iteration is even more interesting because it relies on AI technology to convert real-life maps into an interactive environment for players.

minecraft rivercraft
Image: RiverCraft / Microsoft

This is important because, traditionally, video game development has been characterised as time and resource-intensive, meaning they aren’t practical for teaching specific information.

For example, you can create a game that teaches mathematics, reading and literacy, and even how to vote. The specific methods to survive a flood in regional Australia, though? Not so much. The creation of RiverCraft suggests that it might be changing.

The AI that worked on Minecraft’s RiverCraft converted maps of Preston and South Ribble (in England) into an interactive game map. Suppose this process could be replicated with minimal effort, with the AI being tasked with mapping other flood-prone areas. In that case, it could become a precious tool for teaching safety protocols specific to a particular region.

This application could be life-saving and, considering the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, highly relevant to modern living.

RiverCraft is a joint project between Microsoft (who own Minecraft), the Environment Agency and Block Builders.

Andy Brown, the Flood Risk Manager for the Environment Agency, had the following to say:

This is an amazing opportunity for students and a project we are proud to be a part of. Not only will young people learn about a major flooding scheme in the UK, but they will also discover more about climate change, the environment, flooding and the types of roles available for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

RiverCraft is available here through the Minecraft: Education Edition portal.