Board game to excite and engage school children

Postgraduate students at the University of Sheffield have invented their own unique version Monopoly in a bid to engage school children in engineering materials.

Materials Monopoly could be rolled out to schools across the country

The students from the Advanced Metallic Systems Centre of Doctoral Training have replaced the iconic coloured streets around the board with a range of materials used in science, engineering and manufacturing, from cheap wood to expensive elements like uranium, as well as turning the train stations into facilities such as processing stations.

Materials like metals, ceramics, and composites all feature in the board game but instead of building up properties, players advance their technologies from raw materials to more complicated structures, for example turning steel from paperclips into skyscrapers.

Technological advances replace propertiesWith every advancement, the players learn interesting facts about the uses of their materials, like America using zinc to coat their pennies in a bid to save money.

In another twist on the long running board game, ‘community chests’ and ‘chance’ cards have been changed to charges for health and safety evaluations or compensation for industrial accidents.

The entrepreneurial experts - who are studying at the University’s Advanced Metallic Systems Centre for Doctoral Training - have launched Materials Monopoly at this week’s Cheltenham Science Festival.

If the game is a success with both primary and secondary school children attending the science festival, hundreds of copies of the game – which was developed as part of the course – could be distributed to schools across the UK

Professor Panos Tsakiropoulos, Director of the Centre for Doctoral Training, said: “It’s a fantastic idea, and depending on its success at the festival it could be rolled to our schools across the country. They’ve done a really good job and there’s a lot of interest in it.

“To get the number of people industry needs to be interested in the subject, it is important that we promote it as much as possible, and this is what we ask the students to do. They work together to come up with ideas for communicating things about metallurgy and how it affects everybody's lives, whether they are school students or the general public, then carry them out.”

He added: “There can be anything from activities at science fairs like this one to short animations or virtual laboratories. As we are engineers, we always want to know how to do things better, and so we also make them give a critical evaluation of what they have done, and how it can be improved next time.

“When we saw the Monopoly board idea developing, we realised that it was an idea with a lot of potential, and as so many people have asked where they can get the board from, we've decided to look at how we can make copies available for educational use elsewhere. We'd like it if in every school people were discussing if they should upgrade their natural materials, or invest in the full set of advanced materials.”

The Advanced Metallic Systems Centre for Doctoral Training is a partnership between the University of Sheffield and University of Manchester.

 Teaching novel metallic materials and engineering solutions are essential to the success of a wide range of sectors including aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, defence and renewable energy.

The centre was created in answer to the growing shortage of high-quality graduates by providing an exciting new approach to postgraduate research and training in this area.

Scientific twists:

  • The students have replaced the streets with materials used in science, engineering and manufacturing and turned train stations into facilities, such as processing stations.
  • Instead of building up properties, players advance their technologies from raw materials to more complicated structures.
  • 'Community chests’ and ‘chance’ cards have been changed to charges for health and safety evaluations or compensation for industrial accidents.

High-calibre students from a range of physical science and engineering backgrounds undertake four year courses leading into a full PhD research project and supplemented by a transferable skills training programme leading to a Diploma in Professional Skills.

The Centre involves leading experts in materials science and engineering from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield and the School of Materials at the University of Manchester.

The two universities provide complementary expertise in metallurgy, manufacturing, surface engineering and corrosion science giving students a breadth of experience and a wide choice of research topics to suit their interests.

Additional information

Advanced Metallic Systems Centre For Doctoral Training

Advanced Metallic Systems Centre For Doctoral Training

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, and 2007).

These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world. The University’s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.


For further information please contact:

Paul Mannion
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 9851