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Ulster University is helping to address the future skills shortage in the construction sector with the development of a new interactive game that aims to inspire the next generation of industry leaders.

Researchers from Ulster University have developed BelMCraft, a computer game based on the globally successful Minecraft platform, which allows players to create and explore a virtual city. The game helps young people better understand the built environment and aims to excite them about construction careers. 

Building on the current Minecraft platform, the game highlights the emerging role of technology in this traditional sector and ensures young gamers consider planning issues, health and safety risks, structural aspects, sustainability and cost when creating their 3D world. The game closely aligns to aspects of the building information modelling (BIM) process, which is becoming more widely used in the construction sector to create and manage building projects in a 3D environment. 

 Architectural technology researcher and lecturer at Ulster University, David Comiskey, said: "As the economy continues to recover it is vital that we attract young talent into the workforce to help drive future growth of the construction sector. The aim of the game is to promote the relevance of construction related professions to school children and inspire them to pursue further study and careers in the industry. 

 "The University is working closely with local primary and post-primary schools to develop the BelMCraft game further and will be including updates and additional features based on their feedback. We also hope to develop an iBook to compliment the game and provide more in-depth teaching on building design and the construction process. 

 "We have used our academic knowledge and roles within the Northern Ireland BIM Region Steering Group to assist the creation of the game, which mirrors aspects of BIM. BIM is a rapidly emerging process in the construction sector for the design, delivery and management of built assets. The development of this game is helping to ensure the next generation have the skills to work in this cloud based collaborative environment. 

 "Through this game-based learning Ulster University is highlighting how technology is changing the face of the construction sector and that a career in this industry can be hugely exciting and rewarding." 

Chair of the industry body, Construction Group for NI, Stephen Kane added: "It is critical that we engage the next generation of construction professionals and highlight the importance of the sector to them. This game does just that and importantly makes learning fun which is a key factor to engaging young people in what can be a incredibly exciting career." 

 The game is currently in a pilot phase and has been developed by Ulster University researchers in partnership with digital consultancy, Ardvisory and education consultancy, ImmersiveMinds.