Posted on 10 July 2020
Matthew Lees, a recent MChem (York) graduate who conducted his research project with Dr Glenn Hurst published a free-of-charge game-based mobile application, Green Tycoon, that embraces a systems thinking approach to introducing students to a biorefining process model within green chemistry.
In Green Tycoon, players adopt the role of a manager in a chemical factory, synthesising the fictional compound, Yorkanone. Through upgrading the system and engaging with the integrated quiz, players can learn green chemistry principles while appreciating some of the considerations in biorefining. Green Tycoon was implemented with students on our MSc in Green and Sustainable Industrial Technology together with in Augsburg University in Minnesota through a collaboration with Dr Michael Wentzel. Following evaluation, Green Tycoon proved to be a useful resource to introduce students to green chemistry and its role in moving toward a bioeconomy.In his project, Matthew explores how, through education, society can transition toward a bioeconomy, making responsible and efficient use of natural resources to include their conservation, restoration and recycling. More specifically, Matthew identified that biorefinery systems meet this demand well through the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of biobased products and bioenergy. The most sustainable third-generation whole-crop biorefineries take an entire systems-level approach with due consideration of feedstock(s), processing, product stream(s), and associated transport of natural resources/products. In reviewing such biorefining models, Matthew produced a new educational resource where students can recognise the interdependence of components in complex and dynamic systems such as biorefining models and in doing so, attempt to transition from a fragmented and reductionist knowledge of green chemistry to a more integrated and holistic understanding, which is of significant relevance in moving society towards a more sustainable future.
It is noteworthy that Matthew had no coding knowledge upon commencing his project and hence this serves as a useful example of what students can achieve through a chemistry education research project in the area of technology-enhanced learning.