Interface Ecology Lab brings team coordination game to Disaster City

The Interface Ecology Lab in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering has designed the Team Coordination Game (TeC) to improve the safety of emergency responders and those they serve by studying firefighters at the Brayton Firefighter Training Field.

Post-Doctoral Researcher Zachary O. Toups and Ph.D. student William Hamilton designed and developed the game, working closely with Principal Investigator Andruid Kerne, associate professor. The project has been supported by the Human-Centered Computing Program of the National Science Foundation.

The researchers say that the importance of coordinating saving lives in emergency response has grown in significance as a result of disasters including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ike, and earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. New technology and education through games offers the opportunity to improve responders' capabilities. The digital TeC game is what researchers call a zero-fidelity simulation -- that is, one that focuses on human-centered aspects of communication, such as stress, information sharing, and limited bandwidth, while skipping concrete aspects, such as fire and smoke.

From April 11-15, a new level of deployment will bring the multiplayer cooperative TeC game to Disaster City. The game will be featured as a unit in the Collapse Rescue Operations course offered by the internationally renowned Texas Engineering Extension Service's (TEEX) Disaster Preparedness and Response (DPR) and Urban Search and Rescue divisions. Sixteen students will participate in this pilot deployment.

The game is expected to teach the participants to work better and communicate more accurately. The researchers will be working to validate the transferability hypothesis of zero-fidelity simulation: to show that a simulation derived from fire emergency response can also successfully teach team coordination to people working in other contexts.

DPR chief Bob McKee said, "Learning how to better communicate is crticially important for all emergency responders and disaster managers. The TeC Game provides each of our students and practitioners with a unique opportunity to learn as an individual and as a member of a team."

For more information, please go to http://ecologylab.net/tec.