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About the Experiment

This activity, created with help from the 2019 STEM Youth in Action Winner, Clyde VanDyke, will take you on a science expedition in Colorado. The game teaches kids computer science (CS) concepts and teamwork, while introducing them to a diverse array of computer science careers.

Grades: 6-8
Topic: Computer Science
Estimated Time: 30-40 Minutes

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4‑H STEM Lab

What You’ll Need


  • Mesa game board
  • Game pieces
  • Flower tokens
  • Flower key
  • CS flash cards
4-H youth practicing bow and arrow

What to Do


  1. Print out the game board and game pieces (found in the activity PDF via the ACTIVITY DOWNLOADS tab) and cut them out. Tape together the two game board pieces to make one large board.
  2. You’ll use the dice to decide where the flower tokens and the danger tokens will be placed. Place the flower tokens before the danger tokens. Start by rolling both dice. Add the numbers together and find that number on the horizontal axis. Roll both dice again and add them together to get the vertical access number. Place a token on the game board square where those numbers intersect. Repeat until all the flowers and then all the danger tokens have been placed. If the same numbers come up, roll again until you get a blank space.
  3. Each player should choose a different game piece and place it at the bottom of the Mesa game board. Each player rolls a die and whoever gets the highest number places their piece first. Only one game piece per space.
  4. Decide as a team if you’ll use beginner or intermediate CS flash cards, create your own, or use a combination of both.
  5. Take the CS flash cards, gently shuffle them, and place them in a pile face down.


  1. You are part of an expedition team navigating the Mesa game board. Your mission is to collect all the plants and prepare them for input into your computer by correctly identifying them by their scientific names. Work collectively with all the other players to complete the mission. You are playing against the clock. To help speed your progress, use your knowledge of computer science – your team only has 20 minutes to complete the expedition before nightfall, when climbing the Mesa becomes too dangerous!
  2. Players can only move vertically unless they reach a space with part of a Mesa on it. Then a player can move horizontally but only for as far as the ledge extends. At any point along a Mesa a player can resume their vertical movement.
  3. Players cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
  4. Players will take turns moving their pieces, going from youngest to oldest. Players can work together to strategize their moves and complete their mission.
  5. On each player’s turn they can use up to two moves:
    a. 1 move – Move one square on the gameboard
    b. 1 move – Collect a plant
    c. 2 moves – Move onto a Mesa space by drawing a CS card
    d. 2 moves – Attach to a climbing rope by drawing a CS card
  6. Climbing ropes and Mesas can help speed up your team’s progress. To ‘attach’ to the climbing rope or to summit one of the Mesas will require two moves. To do so move your piece onto the rope or Mesa. Then have the player who’s turn came before you pull a card from the CS deck, they will read the question to you and will serve as the judge for whether your answer is correct. If you correctly answer the question you can immediately move to any space along the rope or Mesa’s length. If you answer incorrectly you are left hanging. On the next player’s turn they can choose to use one of their moves to save you by answering a new CS card question correctly. If they do, you can move anywhere along the rope or Mesa immediately. If they do not, then you are stuck there until your next turn.
  7. To collect plants you must land on the space that the plant token occupies and use 1 move to collect the plant.
  8. If a player lands on a danger token they must move back down the Mesa two spaces towards start. The player then collects that token. If any player collects three danger tokens the game ends and your expedition fails.
  9. To win your expedition team must collect all of the plant specimens and uncover their scientific names by matching them to the pictures on the flower key. All players must also make it to the top of the Mesa before the time is up.
  10. When you’re ready, begin your 20 minute timer!

Questions to Engage Youth

  1. What was the most challenging part of collecting all the flowers?
  2. What kind of activities do you love? How could you combine these with computer science to create a new field?
  3. Do you think you could win the game playing by yourself?
  4. If you play again, what will you do differently? How might you work better as a team?


About the activity:
Solving some of today’s biggest problems requires teams of experts working across disciples, building off each other’s research and working with professionals in computer science. One of the many emerging fields that uses computer science is computational sustainability. Computational sustainability is a new interdisciplinary research field that uses computational models, methods, and tools to help manage the balance of environmental, economic, and societal needs for a sustainable future. In this new field, computer scientists work alongside wildlife conservationists, marine biologists, doctors and others to improve their work and help make a positive impact on the world. This activity is designed to help youth and adults think about how computer science can help professionals in any field make their work more efficient or solve problems. The possibilities are limitless for how computer science can be used to
change the world for the better.

If you’d like to learn more about computational sustainability, check out this great resource from Cornell:

4‑H STEM Lab on the Go!

Download and print the PDF to easily complete the activity in groups.

Download the Scientific Expedition in CS Activity and Notebook


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