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Video game allows students to simulate air quality solutions in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- All it takes is to walk outside this time of year to know why air quality is on the forefront of people's minds in Utah’s winter months.

Lots of solutions have been proposed, like a statewide ban on wood burning during the winter, more mass transit and more emissions testing.

But what would happen if all of those solutions were actually implemented? A new video game seeks to answer that question.

Roger Altizer, Director of Therapeutic Games and Apps Lab at the University of Utah, spoke about the project.

“In this game you play the part of a mythical mayor, and you make some policy decisions about air quality in Utah," he said. "You make some personal decisions about air quality in Utah. And then you get to see the results."

Bad Air Day is a video game designed to help high school students understand Utah’s air quality during inversions.

“Air quality is a big issue for us here in Utah, it has drastic effects on our health, and on our happiness,” Altizer said. “We think that young adults understanding what they can do about air quality can really make a difference.”

The U of U partnered with Utah Clean Air and brought together educators, lawmakers, scientists and game developers to create the most realistic game possible--With real-life results on the difference each decision would make.

Kerry Kelly, Associate Director of Program for Air Quality Health and Society at the U of U, said the game lets people try different approaches to the issue.

She said: “You hear a lot of people talk about strategies, for example, why don't we stop all wood burning? Why don't we shut down all large industry? So this game actually lets you make those decisions. It also lets you decide, 'I’m going to have everyone drive twice as much' and see what that will do to air quality.”

The inversion in the city is present in the game, and it impacts how far you can see. That distance gradually decreases as the inversion thickens. But, if you choose to make too many strict decisions to create a clean city, your virtual citizens will get upset.

"So as part of the game, we have walls of public anger,” Kelly said. “So if you select a strategy that really angers a lot of people, the game becomes more difficult to play.”

So now the question is: Will students actually play and learn from this game?

"They get to choose to play it,” Altizer said. “They can choose, 'Do I want to do a traditional science lesson, or play this video game that's going to teach me about the science of air quality in Utah? And I think it's not hard to say that a lot of students will opt to play this video game."

If you're interested to see what you could do for a virtual Salt Lake City, you can play the game by clicking here.

4 comments

  • dev heath

    I have to wonder how accurate the model is that simulates the true outcome. Like for instance the effect from the largest single polluter in north America spewing it’s toxins directly into the Wasatch front when the air flow is from the West to North West. And when we get an air flow from the south, does the game reflect the vastly improved conditions when that happens despite the fact that we have the same amount of cars on the Wasatch front roads? Or is the only options in the game to further clamp down on the unsuspecting, deliberately uneducated public with more draconian laws and restrictions on freedoms? Thanks to this computer model turned into a game / indoctrination tool, it is easy to see how the global warming scam is perpetuated. Garbage in, garbage out and all the while filling the minds of the unlearned to be unwitting believers of lies and propaganda to the detriment of their own health and their children’s health. I’m curios to find out while role playing as mayor in this game, is there a phone to call Rennert’s U.S. Magcorp and shut down the millions of pounds of pollutants that flow into our valley every year? Hope so for hones-ties sake.
    The “We Hate Wood Burning” and “Take Transit” organizations keep trying to whip up support to justify their existence. It’s hard to do when the sky is vivid blue and the scenery is crystal clear. These people love Rennert’s plume – instead of hating it. It fuels their fanatical opposition to stoves and fireplaces. It covers the fallacy of their conviction that cars are the source of the Gray Air. What’s the latest smoke and mirror manipulation of public opinion? Cancelling the fireworks in downtown SLC on New Years Eve. Mayor Bike has tossed another empty gesture on the pitiful pile.

    • bob

      That “largest single polluter” emits chlorine, which dissipates to meaningless levels long before it reaches SLC, even when the wind IS blowing from that direction, which it only does when a storm front approaches.

      Other than that, I agree with you. Did anyone explain to the kids that the air is going to look like that during an inversion because of FOG?

      Pure liberal indoctrination. I note that the game also appears to be devoid of economic effects, either way. “Hey kids, let’s shut down industry! People living here can work for Nuskin or McDonalds.”

      • dev heath

        Bob, just to reply on your points of contention.
        Point 1; By enlarge, 85% of the time the air flow over Northern Utah is from the West or North West. Whenever we get a storm front moving through, it will temporarily shift from the South until the front moves through and then resumes to it’s normal West to North West direction with rare exceptions.
        Point 2; While it is true that chlorine (actually free chlorine) dissipates to meaningless levels, it is because that when free chlorine is introduced into direct sun lite, it will oxidize. And that is how Dioxin can be made. Also, there is a host of other toxic ingredients that makes it to the front as well.

  • Mark McMillan

    In 2014 there were 18,000 new federal regulations written. Our state, county, & cities are a microcosm of the feds. Unelected government agencies writing piles of regulations in order to protect us from ourselves. After all, they feel they have a mandate to improve our lives. The problem is, they are destroying our lives and initiative. Example. Murray City “banned” fund raising by car washing last summer until there was so much pressure applied they dropped it. Problem is that our scouts in my area missed out on their scheduled fund raising and the regulation lift was too late. Bryce Bird with DAQ should get a wake up call by losing his job. He promotes a radical environmentalist groups agenda and totally marginalizes the people attending these latest meetings concerning wood burning. If anyone should know that this won’t make a dimes worth of difference it’s him. But, appearance of doing something is evidently the most important project.

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