Minecraft as a Platform for Project-Based Learning in AI

  • Sameer Singh University of California, Irvine


Undergraduate courses that focus on open-ended, project-based learning teach students how to define concrete goals, transfer conceptual understanding of algorithms to code, and evaluate/analyze/present their solution. However, AI, along with machine learning, is getting increasingly varied in terms of both the approaches and applications, making it challenging to design project courses that span a sufficiently wide spectrum of AI. For these reasons, existing AI project courses are restricted to a narrow set of approaches (e.g. only reinforcement learning) or applications (e.g. only computer vision).

In this paper, we propose to use Minecraft as the platform for teaching AI via project-based learning. Minecraft is an open-world sandbox game with elements of exploration, resource gathering, crafting, construction, and combat, and is supported by the Malmo library that provides a programmatic interface to the player observations and actions at various levels of granularity. In Minecraft, students can design projects to use approaches like search-based AI, reinforcement learning, supervised learning, and constraint satisfaction, on data types like text, audio, images, and tabular data. We describe our experience with an open-ended, undergraduate AI projects course using Minecraft that includes 82 different projects, covering themes that ranged from navigation, instruction following, object detection, combat, and music/image generation.

EAAI Symposium: Poster Papers