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MMTS – The Evolution of MineOpportunity: The game that inspires young minds into mining

MMTS - The Evolution of MineOpportunity: The game that inspires young minds into mining

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By: Sean Barrette, MMTS Committee Member
Originally Published by MMTS

In her recollection, the buzz around the game has always been tangible.

“Of all the events held during Modern Mining & Technology Sudbury week, the one the volunteers always clamoured to be present for was the MineOpportunity Game,” enthuses Nicole Tardif, MMTS Co-Chair. “All the kids were happy, excited, and enjoying themselves.”

And learning about careers in mining while they were at it.

That was the goal of the MineOpportunity game when Ms. Tardif created it for her 1st year geology students. Originally called Mine-Opoly (a name eventually scuttled over copyright concerns), the game was conceived as a fun way for groups of students to become familiar with the mining industry. They would learn in the labs, connect with Ministry people and other mining experts, learn about the geology and various rock and mineral formations in the region, and of the diverse careers on campus in geoscience.

MMTS partnered with Dynamic Earth to use the facility, creating a fun and interactive environment that was enjoyed by all ages. Teams would be given questions then have to go investigate in various galleries to find the answers (where other new materials were often implanted.) There would also be hands-on activities depending on the age and experience of the students – they may have to build a headframe from materials they collected, read a geological map, perform an environmental activity, identify rocks and minerals, etc. Like the game from which it took its inspiration, teams would receive a dollar value for completing activities and/or answering questions. There were even cards, and the jail component!

A bilingual game that could be enjoyed by students from every school board and post-secondary school in the area, the success of MineOpportunity year after year was assured. The MMTS committee, comprised of people from mining and related professions, were justifiably proud of the game and how it has evolved with their input over the years, using their expertise to help teachers and students alike. This commitment to ongoing education is part of what earned MMTS a nomination for the Community Builders Award.

And then last March, just two months before the launch of MMTS week, Covid-19 changed everything.

The question became, how would MMTS pivot, and use that same expertise and commitment to ensure MineOpportunity not only continued, but continued to evolve and improve? Would it be possible to keep it fun, keep it compelling for the kids? Would it still be possible to get across that mining has evolved from a dark tunnel industry to one that is socially and environmentally responsible, and bring students to the realization that they can be the next generation to implement these innovations, advance it even further, and maintain the future stability of the industry?

The answer was a resounding YES!

MineOpportunity has gone from a live, interactive experience to a rich, exciting virtual one, and in doing so, has in some ways expanded its offerings – including in one very significant way.

This year, MineOpportunity activities will be held in Google Classroom over a two-week period from its launch May 10th. The time period is designed to ensure there is ample time to complete the game, which is now a game of strategy that still involves answering questions, and even some physical components, but also watching exciting videos in order to collect answers, and using technology to create posters, Power Point presentations, and student videos (all, of course, following pandemic protocols.)

For example, students may need to find easy to acquire materials to make a video of themselves building a model of an underground mine, or a water management system. They will engage with videos that cover careers in modern mining, women in mining, diversity in the trades, and cool new technologies that are being applied in mining, etc. MMTS partners in the mining and mining support business have pitched in to create an activity that will truly challenge the students, who will be grouped in teams of 5 to 10 for the game.

It will be fun, but also tough, because this year there is more riding on MineOpportunity than ever before. While in the past MMTS would often give out gift certificates and other promo items as loot, now up for grabs is $10,000.00, with $5000.00 going to the 1st place team, and $3000.00 and $2000.00 prizes for 2nd and 3rd place respectively.

“It’s literally a game changer,” says MMTS Co-Chair Tardif. “It is wide open now and teams can go above and beyond, or just play and enjoy the game, but everybody has the same ‘opportunity’ to bring the prize money home to their schools.” Tardif adds that the game is still bilingual, but where the French and English days used to be separate at Dynamic Earth, now all activities in both languages will run concurrently, with all students competing for the same prize lot.

The cash helps bring a “real world” component to the proceedings. Leadership, critical thinking, problem solving, project management, and the ability to prioritize to hit high value targets based on time or difficulty will all be required. Once the students gain access to the platform, the teams will have to be strategic in their approach, know and leverage their strengths, assign roles, and split up to tackle different aspects of the game.

MineOpportunity will, of course, also make use of social media, reporting standings every two days based on what the teams have submitted. The game will start on May 10th and close on the 21st, with winners announced on May 26th. The prize money will be expected to be used for educational purposes related to earth sciences, mining, field trips, etc., and the MMTS Committee hopes schools and students will provide video and pictures of what they were able to experience with the money.

“The world changed suddenly, but our commitment to helping kids understand the amazing opportunities that exist in mining hasn’t. And when the time comes, who knows? With what we’ve learned, maybe we take the best of both worlds and create a hybrid of the two, much the same way some classic board games have added and electronic component. The world keeps turning, mining keeps evolving, and so do we,” concludes Ms. Tardif.