Vanished – A New Online Event From MIT and The Smithsonian Institution

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Launching April 4th, the Smithsonian Institution and MIT are teaming up to debut an unprecedented online/offline science fiction-based mystery event for kids 11-14! Entitled Vanished, the event is an interactive mystery that taps into the pop culture/science phenomena, providing tweens and young teens the opportunity to become real-life scientific investigators and collect and follow the evidence to solve a case of epic proportions.

Vanished is a first-of-its-kind episodic quest where participants are transformed into principal investigators who must race against time to solve games, puzzles and other online challenges, visit real world museums and collect samples from their own neighborhoods to help unlock the secrets of this innovative mystery. Museums nationwide have come together to provide dynamic real world investigative experiences for participants. Throughout the course of this event, participants will also have access to some of the top scientific minds of our time across diverse disciplines such as astrophysics, paleobiology, forensic anthropology and entomology via videoconference office hours to help unlock the mystery.

I recently had a chance to take a virtual tour of the Vanished event. It is very impressive! I wanted to sign up and play along with the kids, but adults are only allowed to observe — no interactions. This answers many questions some parents may have about letting their kids online to communicate in the new game community. Online monitoring is provided by MIT; you can’t get safer than that. The game will play much like a weekly television series, like a real life “Lost.” This will even include a weekly big reveal, if the kids can solve the mystery of the week, that is…

This exciting program is designed to show kids that science is not just about memorizing tables or remembering facts; it is about solving problems, exploring and creative thinking. The kids will get achievements awarded and praise in in-game news articles, but they will also get a feel for real forensic science. The MIT students who will be acting as mentors to the players will receive course credit and many have signed on just for the learning experience.

Sign-ups have already started for the April 4th launch! Visit Vanished to get registered. All screenshots provided by MIT and the Smithsonian.

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