Government agency works with tech firms in virtual version of Lancashire city
A bridge over the river Ribble in Preston Credit: Microsoft
The Environment Agency has unveiled an exact replica of the Lancashire city of Preston, as rendered in the virtual world of Minecraft.
As part of the popular video game’s Education Edition for use in schools, the Rivercraft world has been developed from open-source 3D imagery. The creation of a Minecraft version of Preston comes as the city and surrounding region works on the implementation of a £54.7m flood defence scheme – due to be completed by next summer.
The programme aims to offer greater protection to 4,700 homes and businesses in an area which has suffered flooding multiple times in recent years, most recently in February 2020.
In one of the three games offered by Rivercraft, schoolchildren can model their own flood defences for the Preston and South Ribble area. The second games enables players to “explore how individual actions can alleviate climate change and how understanding flood risk can reduce the damage to people and property”, while the third allows them to conduct a virtual ecological survey “to spot and record some of our most beloved wildlife species including water voles and otters”, according to the Environment Agency.
The game has already been used in lessons at the Archbishop Temple School in the Fulwood area of north Preston.
The school’s head of computer Helen McLean said that “so many children play Minecraft already, so any lesson that can involve Minecraft is a win-win straight away”.
“It’s great that they can make mistakes in a safe environment like Minecraft, because that’s how they learn to fix things,” she added, in a story published by Minecraft parent company Microsoft. “It’s great to see them building flood defences. Flooding does happen across this area and there was a devastating flood a few years ago. People I know saw the bottom floor of their houses submerged in water and some lost their businesses, while roads became giant rivers. Flooding is becoming more and more of an issue around here.”
Andy Brown, flood risk manager for the Environment Agency, said: “This is an amazing opportunity for students and a project we are proud to be a part of. Not only will young people learn about a major flooding scheme in the UK, but they will also discover more about climate change, the environment, flooding and the types of roles available for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Introducing the next generation to the brilliant career opportunities we have here at the Environment Agency is key if we are to deliver our vital flood and coastal defence projects. This includes the Preston and South Ribble Scheme, which will directly reduce flood risk to 4,700 homes and businesses.”
The Preston world was created by Brighton-based BlockBuilders, which specialises in creating Minecraft worlds for use in education settings.