It's been 200 years since Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein created a creature in an experiment so gruesome it immediately became the stuff of horror legend.
But Shelley's tale is more than a scary fable. Thanks to a new interactive online experience, it's also a way to teach kids about science.
Frankenstein200 is a multimedia project designed by researchers at Arizona State University and funded through a grant by the National Science Foundation. It uses Shelley's tale of scientific hubris to get children thinking about such things as robotics, bioengineering and why humans create.
Kids can immerse themselves in an online story about what might happen if Tori Frankenstein, a descendant of Victor, picked up where her ancestor left off. It takes players into Frankenstein's high-tech Laboratory for Innovation and Fantastical Exploration (LIFE) and invites them to help two young researchers as the daring — and sinister — scientist confronts a scientific mystery. Kids watch videos and even get emails from characters, following them into hidden realms of science and making shocking and increasingly complex discoveries.
Along the way, there are chances to take quizzes, do puzzles and play games, and there are at-home activities that take the game's questions off the computer and into the real world. The game takes 30 days to play.
The game isn't quite as creepy as Shelley's book, but it raises a lot of the same questions about scientific ethics and responsibility, along with lessons about such things as DNA, electricity and artificial intelligence.
It's recommended for children 10 to 14, and you can play for free.