In this lesson, students explore how the basic principles of evolution can be used to produce a better vehicle using web-based software. The program, BoxCar2D, allows the user to observe evolution in action with cars in a virtual environment and design vehicles to move over a variety of 2- dimensional landscapes. The program utilizes the basic principles of biological evolution: mutation, reproduction with recombination, and selection (moving faster and farther = higher fitness).
Through guided exploration of the dynamics of digital evolution in BoxCar2D, students will gain an understanding of the following concepts:
- Evolution happens over generations in populations, not to an individual within its lifetime.
- Mutations and recombination create variation.
- Although much of the variation is not helpful, some of it is – this random variation allows evolution by natural selection to solve problems in novel and efficient ways
- Evolutionary processes can be used to find innovative solutions to engineering problems
Length of Lesson
This lesson requires two one-hour class periods to complete. The first class period can be used to introduce the website www.boxcar2d.com and the principles of evolution by natural selection. The second class period can be used for independent student inquiry projects. Additional class periods could be added on if students were to present their findings to their classmates.
Lesson Plan created by GK-12 Fellows Liz Schultheis, Anne Royer, and Sara Garnett, 2013