On a tour of Toronto this week, Canada’s Governor General David Johnston took the time to play some video games. And I must say, he was pretty good!

At the offices of online science education company Spongelab Interactive, Mr. Johnston tried his hand at a few of the company’s award-winning titles, including Build-A-Body, a drag-and-drop game in which students can assemble the complex structures that make up their bodies. Dragging a set of lungs into the torso of an on-screen avatar, the Governor General was clear on his priorities: “Can it build me some new legs?”

During his term as Governor General, Mr. Johnston has identified innovation and education as two of his priorities. “It is … with great interest that I will be meeting with members of organizations and the people behind extraordinary, innovative initiatives that are having an impact on our society,” he stated in a recent press release. “I believe that by sharing knowledge and encouraging innovation, our society will continue to evolve and grow.”

“We’re excited that the Governor General has identified Spongelab as a leader in the innovation of educational technology,” says Spongelab co-founder Dr. Jeremy Friedberg. “His commitment to teaching and learning from so many different perspectives is immense. He brings that to his post as Governor General.”

Mr. Johnston’s visit comes at an exciting time for Spongelab. In February, the National Science Foundation awarded Spongelab an Honourable Mention for Build-A-Body. The company will soon be releasing an API to allow other websites to embed the Spongelab tools. “It goes well beyond just the games,” said Friedberg. “We’re fostering a global community of science learners, students and enthusiasts.”

Spongelab Interactive is part of an Education Cluster at MaRS, a group of education entrepreneurs devoted to innovation in K-12 education in Canada. Companies in the cluster offer a range of products and services that seek to increase the quality of public education in Canada with innovative technologies and pedagogies.

“The cluster model is so important for this kind of work,” Mr. Johnston said. As past President of the University of Waterloo, presiding during the city’s high-tech boom, he understands the importance of incubators and regional hubs for helping innovation flourish.

Later in his tour, Mr. Johnston played Transcription Hero, a game that required him to transcribe the four protein bases of a DNA strand using a Guitar Hero controller. After a few minutes it became clear he was an RNA-polymerase expert, netting a perfect score. “No mutations!” said Friedberg.

Spongelab continues to build an engaging, exciting and interactive learning environment composed of rich multimedia. As a member of our Education Cluster, Spongelab will inspire other education entrepreneurs to make their own mark in the education system.

For further information on the K-12 education system, please read our paper: K-12 Education: Opportunities and Strategies for Entrepreneurs.

Joseph Wilson

Joseph was an education advisor at MaRS Discovery District. He writes on topics of science, culture and city issues for NOW Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Spacing and Yonge Street. He is the Executive Director of the Treehouse Group, dedicated to fostering innovation by hosting cross-disciplinary events. See more…