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Come play at the Franklin Institute — in a Roblox metaverse

The Franklin Institute is extending its STEM education reach to the metaverse.
Today at 6 p.m. EST, the Logan Square-based science center is launching an immersive Roblox experience called CurioCity. The Franklin Institute partnered with MELON, a metaverse development company, for the project, which incorporates features of the organization’s exhibits into the game.

CurioCity will be available for free on Roblox and is open to people of all ages (though we know that kids love Roblox). It features mini games and two immersive escape rooms, one on a moon base and one about the human body. The escape rooms can be completed by one player or by a team, and they each require players to complete puzzles, earn rewards and collect items, all while learning about scientific topics.

“We designed this experience to be fun and to capture some of the thrills of exploration and discovery that have always spurred scientific progress,” said Josh Neuman, co-CEO at MELON, in a statement. “Though it’s all about what works in Roblox, the Franklin Institute’s exhibits, collections, and overall philosophy inspired many of the elements we incorporated into the games, and we collaborated closely on the unique visual world we created.”

The Franklin Institute’s chief experience and strategy officer, Abby Bysshe, told that the org was put in touch with MELON through one of its board members. MELON was starting an educational game branch, and because of their design style and the type of experiences they create, it made sense for the Franklin Institute to partner with them, she said.

“They’ve done a lot of brand stuff, they’ve done a lot of event-driven things,” Bysshe said. “They have a really good knowledge base of educational games. They’ve worked with a couple other institutions prior to us. So it felt like a good partnership from a look and feel and experience perspective.”

Bysshe said CurioCity is part of a larger digital initiative the Franklin Institute is working on, including podcasts and video series. The goal is to reach a wider audience than just the people who would come to the museum.

“Metaverse platforms like Roblox are a logical next step for The Franklin Institute, providing a highly relevant medium to connect with future audiences at a young age and pique their curiosity about science and technology,” Bysshe said in a statement. “Through CurioCity on Roblox, we are reaching a community of young thinkers where they are already socializing, creating, and sharing experiences together with friends, and are introducing valuable insights and resources to these new audiences in a highly engaging and entertaining way.”

She told that the escape rooms in CurioCity coincide with space and human body exhibits they are working on at the actual museum.

Bysshe said her team wanted the visual experience to reflect the creative way of approaching science that the Franklin Institute implements in all its experiences.

“It’s a natural fit for us experientially to go from that interactive play that we have in our building to gamifying that in an escape room, puzzle solving way so it made a lot of sense for us to go from what we do currently into the gaming space,” she said. “So I’m really happy with how it turned out and excited for people to experience it.”