This snapshot, taken on
, shows web content acquired for preservation by The National Archives. External links, forms and search may not work in archived websites and contact details are likely to be out of date.
The UK Government Web Archive does not use cookies but some may be left in your browser from archived websites.
Racing academy was developed to coincide with the recent curricula drive to re-establish the importance of engineering in schools.

Racing Academy

This project has now completed and the final report is available at the end of this page.

Racing academy was developed to coincide with the recent curricula drive to re-establish the importance of engineering in schools. There are 35 secondary schools that have been awarded specialist engineering college status to deliver the new GCSE engineering syllabus. There have been a number of other initiatives to encourage students to study engineering. The re-introduction of apprenticeships, community based initiatives and a pilot programme for BTec motor vehicle students at Buckmore.
Racing Academy with a game engine based on physics could also be used to deliver the new 21st century science curriculum which will start in September 2006. The aim of the new curriculum is to educate a wide range of students to equip them to understand science on issues that matter to them. Students will develop a general scientific literacy. Racing academy could be used to meet some of the challenges of this new curriculum and post 16 physics.

Racing Academy has been specifically designed as a way to engage and motivate students. It aims to achieve this by engaging them in tasks that are authentic, that involve real practice and through which they can see the effects of their choices, interventions and actions. The players have to handle and analyse multiple and multimodal data sources to make considered choices, to reflect on and review their interventions and actions and to collaborate with others and play the game itself.

The project is based on pedagogical approaches, which see learning as situated in a social context. The first is the notion of scaffolding and progressive learning. Racing academy has a number of the key characteristics of scaffolding. It is designed to recruit the students’ interest through the use of game play. The game also marks the critical features of the game and reduces the degrees of freedom by increasing the complexity of the game and fading the support as the player progresses. The game is designed so that entrants to the academy develop vehicles with limited parameters and limited game play. As the players progress they have access to more and more complex parameters and telemetry (e.g. gear ratios, suspensions)  which they use to inform the design of their vehicles and race them on more complex tracks (e.g. drag strips and race tracks).

The second pedagogical approach is Lave and Wenger’s theory of communities of practice. Lave and Wenger (1991) conceptualise learning and knowing as occurring in relationship with particular communities. Lave characterises this as situated learning in communities of practice. It is therefore the relationships to these communities that allows one to know about it. Knowing is the act of participation in complex social learning systems. Competence in a community is contingent upon one’s access to  and appropriate use of the community’s shared repertoire of communal resources, including language, routines, sensibilities, tools, artefacts, stories, and styles. Learning occurs as the individual progresses along trajectories of participation within a given community of practice.

Racing academy was designed to foster such communities of practice and situate learning in the complex interactions evident in communities of practice. James Paul Gee suggests that computer games are “little learning engines” that are carefully designed o be learnt through practice and active play and that “affinity groups” of players  with common interests in specific titles or genres coalesce informally around these. It is through social interaction and material artefacts that members of such groups access knowledge about the games, series of games or genres. Thus computer games can be seen as a dynamic social learning system.


Racing Academy has the following objectives derived from this overall aim

  • To encourage and motivate engineering and science students
  • To support science and engineering student’s learning
  • To develop teaching resources for using Racing Academy in engineering and science lessons both at further and higher education.
  • To develop a common evaluation and embedding framework in relation to the process of innovation and of embedding tools -Cultural Historical Activity theory (developed in Scandinavia).
  • To develop an architecture for learners to work with other learners and professionals and modelling to enhance learning.
  • To disseminate ongoing activities and final outcomes to the wider FE and HE community.

Project Methodology

The project will explore the use of Racing Academy across a number of subject areas and courses:

  • vehicle dynamics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath. In this course there are 50 Students and 1 member of staff (Jos Darling)
  • BTEC National Certificate and Diploma programme in Vehicle Repair and Technology at Barnfield Further Education College. There are approximately 50 students on these courses  and 2 members of staff will be involved (John Dudley and Stephen Miller)
  • AS level Physics at Penwith Further Education College. There will be approximately 20 students and 1 member of staff (Andy Diament)

In the first phase of the project, a number of design workshops will be held with teachers and students in order to develop Racing Academy in order to integrate it more fully into the courses. Racing Academy will be used to support students learning in the second phase of the project. The use will vary according to the course and the subject area.

University of Bath's Vehicle Dynamics Course - Racing Academy will be used to give the student an appreciation of factors affecting vehicle dynamics, including straight line performance and vehicle handling. It should also help the students to be able to describe and analyse the operation of a vehicle powertrain and suspension and explain the physical principles of road vehicle handling and suspension set-up.

Barnfield Further Education College - Racing Academy will be used to support the delivery of a range of courses from Level 1 to Level 4 in a BTEC National Certificate and Diploma programme in Vehicle Repair and Technology at Level 3. These courses involve a study of vehicle science and maths and Racing Academy should help students understand the physics behind vehicle dynamics and engine performance.

Penwith Further Education College - Racing Academy will be used within AS level Physics teaching, to deliver such concepts as force and torque, and extended to cover concepts related to kinematics and energy.

In the third phase, the project will be evaluated using a multi-methodological approach. It will analyse the area in which the project has been successful and highlight the challenges to the implementation.  Students will complete learning diaries where they will comment on their experience. A number of case studies will be conducted with students, who will be videotaped to provide a very rich and detailed description of their interaction with the game and their interaction with other students. The teachers will be asked to complete learning diaries. The transcripts from the message boards will be collected and analysed for evidence of knowledge exchange, negotiations of understanding and the development and establishment of a community of experience. Finally, Interviews will be conducted with teachers  and students, which will provide more detailed feedback concerning their perception of the game and their experience of using Racing Academy.


The outcomes of the project will be as follows:

  • A modified version of racing Academy designed to support student’s learning of engineering and physics
  • Educational guidelines and advice as to best practice in the design and use of simulations and serious games, and assessment of students using these tools
  • Completed case studies of the use of Racing Academy across all collaborative departments and schools
  • Knowledge and experience shared in workshops, roadshows (particularly with HE Centres associated with the project and e.g. Engineering and Regional support centres)
  • Conference papers; published articles; currently also investigating the possibility of an edited book arising from the project
  • Project web site
  • Project completion report
  • Dissemination video


  • JISC
  • University of Bath
  • FutureLab
  • Barnfield College
  • Penwith College
  • Lateral Visions
  • QAA
  • HE Academy for Physical sciences and Engineering
  • Automotive Skills Council
  • Engineering Centres of Vocational Excellence
  • Association of Science Education

Project Staff

Project Coordinators
Richard Joiner
Department of Psychology, University of Bath 
Tel: 01225 384373

Martin Owen
Tel: 0117 915 8200

Project Team

Harry Daniels
Department of Education, University of Bath
Tel: 01225 385690
Jo Iacovides
Research Assistant, Department of Psychology
University of Bath
Andy Diament
Penwith College 
Tel: 01736 335000
John Dudley
Barnfield College 
Tel: 01582 569500
Carl Gavin
Lateral Visions 
Tel: (0)151 252 0808

Stephen Miller
Barnfield College 
Tel: 01582 569500

Jos Darling
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath
Tel: 01225 386578

Documents & Multimedia

Start date
1 May 2006
End date
1 May 2008
Funding programme
e-Learning Innovation programme
Project website