Foldit Education Mode

Although Foldit was originally made for science, we always knew it had potential as a learning tool. Until recently, we haven’t done a lot to help teachers use Foldit in their classrooms. We added Custom Contests so teachers could make their own puzzles, but this still takes a lot of time and energy.

The Foldit team had been talking about making a version of Foldit for education, but when the pandemic hit it became clear students across the world needed more remote learning options. So we accelerated our plans, and today we are proud to announce the release of Education Mode!


Figure 1: The Education Mode version of Wiggle teaches you both how to wiggle, and what it’s actually doing.

Education Mode will be launched as a separate app from the main Foldit game. This may change in the future, but for now, if you want to use Education Mode you need to have it installed separately. The downloads can be found on our new educator’s page here.

Education Mode is available from the standard Foldit installation, and can be accessed from the Main Puzzle Selection dialog where you would normally navigate to the Campaign or Science Puzzles. For details about using Education Mode, see our educator's page.

The core idea of Education Mode is to teach a section of a protein biochemistry class through Foldit. We hope this is helpful not only for students, but for anyone curious about the basic science behind protein biochemistry. Even if you’ve been playing Foldit for a while, check out Education Mode for some bonus science and tutorials!

Figure 2: New Primary Structure Puzzle. This is a protein design puzzle, but the purpose is to help you think about which amino acids fit best where in a protein and why based on the underlying chemistry. You’ll notice that the design wheel has had all of the pictures removed to encourage you to visualize the amino acids.

Education Mode has 29 puzzles in 9 tiers. Many of these puzzles are variants of the campaign puzzles, which are designed to teach Foldit gameplay. However, you’re also likely going to learn some biochemistry along the way! In the typical campaign puzzles, we don’t emphasize the biochemistry learning part of it so that you can get to the game quicker and without having to feel like you’re going through a biochemistry class. In Education Mode, the tips focus on teaching you the biochemistry behind the puzzle while learning to play Foldit along the way.

Figure 3: New Idealizing Structure Angles Puzzle. This puzzle is an evolution of the Structure and Idealize campaign puzzle, but now expanded to relate secondary structure to the Rama map, and how to use it.

The Education Mode puzzles start on atomic interactions (like clashes and hydrogen bonds), then focus on amino acid structure before proceeding through different levels of protein structure (primary, secondary, and tertiary structure). Finally, there are a few puzzles on how proteins actually fold in nature, and a final puzzle on protein binding to DNA.

A new feature that you won’t find in the campaign levels is that on many of the puzzles, you can explore the puzzle before clicking through the tutorial, and then reset the puzzle to start scoring. This is so you can explore and experiment before attempting the puzzle for real. You’ll notice that the education tips have both forward and back buttons, and some of them now have pictures to illustrate more abstract concepts! Like the campaign mode, once you’ve completed a puzzle, it will prompt you to move to the next one, but you can also keep playing the puzzle to see if you can improve your score even more.

Some of these puzzles are intentionally hard. We’ve enabled the Save function so that you can take a break and reload your progress, and we have also made it so that you can skip puzzles, in case you want to move on to another topic.

Figure 4: New Tertiary Structure Puzzle. This puzzle is geared specifically to teach students about the difference between secondary and tertiary structure in proteins.

You might notice that we’ve disabled some popular tools (like Wiggle) in many of the Education Mode puzzles. This is to encourage more hand-folding and critical thinking about your choices as opposed to letting the computer do it for you.

Some tools, like Blueprint, are missing from Education Mode because we are still developing lessons for them. For now, the regular Campaign levels are still the best way to learn these tools.

One last feature that we added into Educational Mode is extra camera controls. By pressing Shift+Home, the camera will rock back and forth. Pressing Alt/Option+Home will set the camera into a spin motion. Press the hotkey again to stop the motion. We hope that these new features can help you better visualize the 3D space of your protein!

As always, thanks for playing, and we hope that you enjoy the new Educational Mode! Please let us know what you think of it by submitting feedback or emailing us at!

( Posted by  horowsah 70 1803  |  Sat, 08/01/2020 - 12:53  |  0 comments )
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Developed by: UW Center for Game Science, UW Institute for Protein Design, Northeastern University, Vanderbilt University Meiler Lab, UC Davis
Supported by: DARPA, NSF, NIH, HHMI, Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, Boehringer Ingelheim, RosettaCommons