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Citizen Science

Game for the Good With Stall Catchers Citizen Science

In December 2017, 250 middle school students in Boise, Idaho, were awarded the world’s first citizen science trophy for their collective contributions to Alzheimer’s research. Students made their contribution by playing Stall Catchers, the world’s first online citizen science game designed to assist with Alzheimer’s research. After four weeks of playing the game, students contributed work equal to eight months of lab research time (see “Additional Resources: New Story” for a video feature on these students and their accomplishments). The remarkable work of these young scientists highlights how young people can make a difference in the world through citizen science.

Alzheimer’s is a disease with no known cure or treatment, so it is an area where research and discovery are desperately needed. Cornell University researchers are investigating science questions surrounding reduced blood flow in the brain, as this is a condition associated with Alzheimer’s disease. A current challenge and bottleneck in this groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research is that there is an abundance of data in need of analysis, and Stall Catchers is designed to help address this need by gamifying the analysis.

Project goal: To accelerate Alzheimer’s research

Your task: Watch movie clips and identify “stalls” (clogged blood vessels) that you observe.

Science discipline: Life science

After visiting the project website (see “Project Home”), view the video (“How to Be a Citizen Scientist with Stall Catchers”) for a helpful “getting started” visual overview and walk-through of the game. While playing Stall Catchers, your students “catch” stalls by viewing and analyzing movie clips that feature the brains of mice affected with Alzheimer’s. (For science background resources, see “Video Playlist: The Science of Stall Catchers” and “Additional Resources: The Science Behind the Stalls.”) During the game, students score the blood vessels as “flowing” or “stalled” (see Figure 1). The movies appear as a virtual microscope on the screen, and in flowing vessels, viewers can easily see the movement of the blood cells in the blood vessels. Finding the stalls can be engaging for middle school students, and the game can be played on any device including tablets, smartphones, or laptops. As students search for and catch the “stalls,” they will build up their score, advance in levels, and compete for leaderboard spots with catchers across the world.

FIGURE 1
figure 1

Materials you will need

  • A device (computer/tablet/ smartphone) with internet access

You are invited to join SciStarter and Stall Catchers on April 13, 2019, for Citizen Science Day (see “Citizen Science Day” link for details). This year’s signature event is called the “Megathon,” during which public libraries, schools, and other organizations will work together for one hour to answer a research question about Alzheimer’s disease. To do this, 100,000 movies in Stall Catchers need to be analyzed, which would normally take researchers an entire year! Your classroom can join this global effort and help scientists at Cornell University get one step closer to understanding and solving Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease has been identified as a global public health priority, affecting millions of people worldwide. Scientists are racing against time for treatments to combat this disease. Through analyzing data alongside Cornell University researchers, middle school students are engaging in groundbreaking research, and are contributing significant milestones in helping to accelerate Alzheimer’s research and scientific discovery. We hope you’ll join us on April 13, 2019, for the global “Megathon” event on Citizen Science Day!

References

Citizen Science Day—

Educator guide—

Project home—

Project link on SciStarter—

Video: How to Be a Citizen Scientist With Stall Catchers—

Video playlist: The Science of Stall Catchers—

News Story on Team Middle School STEM and Stall Catchers—

Stall Catchers featured on the Crowd and the Cloud—

The Science Behind the Stalls—

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