Layering game mechanics on top of a Civil Air Patrol summer encampment, Part 2

In this post, I will detail how each of the game elements was implemented and assessed. Administratively, there were a number of moving parts that had to be accounted for each day. Failing to have clear procedures and thorough score keeping would have made this experiment impossible.

Knowledge Book Memorization

Upon arrival at the encampment, each in flight cadet was presented with a knowledge book. The knowledge book consisted of quotes that cadets were expected to learn. Many of these quotes would be useful throughout their cadet career. The entire booklet had 30 quotes, and each page had five. Each of the quotes was worth 10 points.

Sample page from knowledge book
Sample page from knowledge book

Cadets would study each quote until they could memorize it verbatim. Once they felt they could succeed with the task, they would seek out a member of the SET team. SET team members were instructed to be readily available throughout the day to field quote attempts. The cadet would report to the SET team member, request to recite a quote, and give the SET team member their book. The SET team member would listen to the quote recitation, and if correct, he would stamp the block next to the quote indicating success and make an annotation on the log they carried. The book was then returned to the cadet. If the cadet was not successful, the book was returned and the cadet was encouraged to try again after further study.

Once cadets had successfully recited all five quotes from a single page, they could then attempted to recite the entire page to a SET team member. Reciting an entire page was worth an additional 100 points. If a cadet had an opportunity to successfully recite all quotes and all pages, she could recite the entire booklet for 1,000 points.

At the end of the day, all SET team member log sheets were collected and recorded in the master spreadsheet for the day. The top five point earners were reported to public affairs for inclusion in the newsletter. Individuals who successfully completed the entire booklet were recognized with a certificate of accomplishment at the end of the encampment as well as lauded in front of their peers when they achieved the feat.

Flights earned 10 points for each flight member who successfully recited a quote only when all members of their flight successfully recited the same quote. It was important for flight members to use strategy to earn points and encourage teamwork to work on the same quotes. Flight leadership received daily reports showing progress of their flights. Leadership could use the reports to encourage specific flight members to focus their efforts.

Flight results for questions
Flight results for quotes

Room Inspection

Each day, in flight cadets would arrange their rooms according to the standards published. Each day the SET team would inspect the rooms, and record the results both in the rooms and on their log sheets. Affixed to each cadet’s bed was a card with a matrix indicating each inspection date and the following inspection items:

  • Bed
  • Drawer
  • Shoes
  • Hangers
  • Shelf
  • Towel
Bed card
Bed card

When the SET team inspected the living area for each cadet, they would mark the card with a red dot for unsatisfactory (0 points), satisfactory (10 points), or exceeds standards (20 points).  With this visual dashboard, cadets could immediately see how well they did on the inspection. The SET team would also turn in their log sheets which would be recorded on the master spreadsheet.

Each day, flight commanders would be provided with the results so they could help coach their flight. Flights would receive points for their flight only when each member received a satisfactory or exceeds standards rating for a particular item. For example, if all beds were rated satisfactory or exceeds standards, the flight would earn the appropriate points earn by each member of their flight.

SET team members were assigned different rooms to evaluate each day so that the halo effect could be controlled for.

Flight Guidon

Early in the week, each flight was tasked to create a guidon for their flight. This was a team building exercise that accompanied the flight patch design exercise. Each flight was given two hours to prepare a guidon. The guidon was then judged by all members of the set team. First place earned 200 points, second place 100 points, and third place 50 points.

Flight Patch

The flight patch exercise was similar to the guidon exercise. In this exercise, the flights were to draw out a patch that would represent their flight. Again, the SET team judged the design and ranked them from first through third. Points were included in the overall flight results.

Open Ranks Inspections

An open ranks inspection is a detailed prescribed set of movements used to evaluate the flights on readiness. The open ranks inspection required attention to detail from all members of the flight to include the flight commanders and flight sergeants. The flights were evaluated on their accuracy and precision. Two SET team members were assigned to evaluate each flight. One SET member would watch the overall process, and the other SET member would act as the inspector for the open ranks process.

Using a detailed grading sheet, each flight was assessed points for performance. Flights received points for overall uniform wear, personal appearance, military bearing and procedures. Results from both inspectors were combined and entered into the master spreadsheet.

Uniform Inspections

During the open ranks inspection, each cadet was graded on their uniform wear. Specific items evaluated were personal appearance, garments, accoutrements, foot wear, and military bearing. Cadets were given points based on needs improvement (o points), satisfactory (1 point), or excellent (2 points). Points for each inspection were tallied for each cadet, and total points per flight were awarded each flight regardless of result. Points were entered into the master spreadsheet after each inspection.

Uniform inspection form
Uniform inspection form


On four evenings, cadet participated in either ultimate Frisbee or kickball. If a flight was declared a winner for the evening, the flight earned 50 points. In a round robin manner, flights either competed against each other or against the cadre. Senior members served as referees or score keepers. Results of the events were logged in the master spreadsheet.

Flight News

Each day, each flight put up four members of its flight to present flight news. The four members took on the roles of anchor, local news, weather, and sports. The SET team scored each performance on a specially developed rubric. Flights were scored on preparation, organization, collaboration, adherence to news theme, use of visual aids, articulation, humor, accuracy, time management (9 minutes), and overall quality. SET team member results were averaged, multiplied by 10, and entered into the spreadsheet.

Aerospace Education Quizzes

One of the pieces of the Air Force curriculum that we had to address was Air Force heritage. Rather than give dry lectures, we decided to turn it into a game. We were fortunate to have a dedicated Aerospace Education Officer assigned to the encampment. He was able to assemble resources in support of the activity. Basically the cadets watched 30 minutes of Air Force history documentaries. During the subsequent 30 minutes, the cadets participated in 30 minute quiz bowls. Each flight had to put forward four cadets to answer questions regarding the video they just watched. Each team competed through a buzzer system. First and second teams showed up on a visual display. The team who answered the question earned points. If no team was able to answer the question, the question was put to the last team to buzz in, and they could query the rest of their flight. The points earned by each flight were entered into the spreadsheet. The flights participated in seven rounds of quizzes.

Cadet Physical Fitness Test

The final element taken into consideration was the cadet physical fitness test. This is the same test that cadet must pass for each of their promotions. The test difficulty is based on the level of promotion. Cadets are evaluated on four areas: sit and reach, push ups, sit ups, and the mile run. In regards to the game, cadets received points for each area they passed in terms of their promotion. If cadets earned points, the flight also earned points. If a cadet met the requirements of the test, a form was provided for their unit commander indicating the results. Naturally, the results were entered into the master spreadsheet.

Throughout the week the SET team certainly earned their keep. Their attention to detail helped make the score keeping easy.

In the next post, Layering game mechanics on top of a Civil Air Patrol summer encampment, Part 3, I will talk about the results.

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