The University of Southampton's Science and Engineering Day 2015 attracted several thousand visitors and take part in the activities available, including a joint stand from the EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre in Complex System Simulation and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Next Generation Computational Modelling.
The training centres are researching the simulation of products, processes, materials, and devices, and are together training 150 PhD students to become leaders of computational science and engineering in the future.
For the Science and Engineering day, Lenka Pitonakova of the ICSS DTC put together a computer game that visitors - young and old - could play on a number of laptops made available. Lenka, one of the ICSS doctoral students, set the scene by explaining "Termites are blind and only rely on their sense of smell and temperature, yet a termite colony can build structures 1000s of times larger than a single individual."
The ability of the termites to work collectively is based on a set of rules that each of the termites follows and which results in surprisingly complex behaviour and complex structures that are built. The computer game allows players to define sets of rules according to which the actors (termites) in the game behave and build structures in a virtual 3d world. Computer simulation in general is a key tool in exploring and understanding the range of behaviours of complex systems, and the computer game made this capability accessible in a fun way for all age groups.
The game is available online at http://thehivemindgame.net
One of the visitors commented that the game is like Minecraft, but instead of placing blocks one defines rules for blocks to be placed and then the robots (termites) do the heavy work of creating a world from blocks.
Using the 3D flash environment, the game is portable across multiple platforms as it executes in a web browser.