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.Astronomy 6 - Super Planet Crash & Apps for Astronomy Education

A6f78eb8c4b69c5f49ed82641138a316?s=47 Stefano Meschiari
December 10, 2014

.Astronomy 6 - Super Planet Crash & Apps for Astronomy Education


Stefano Meschiari

December 10, 2014


  1. Stefano Meschiari, UT Austin December 10th, 2014 APPS FOR ASTRONOMY

    EDUCATION Engaging students, teachers & the general public through interactive astronomy apps & games. SUPER PLANET CRASH An experiment in creating a minimum- viable-game. Orbits Systemic SimTelescope 6
  2. Systemic 2 Meschiari+ ‘09, ‘10, ‘11, Meschiari+ ‘14 (in

    prep.) Full half of all downloads comes from students & non-academic users.
  3. Systemic Live A web app for modelling exoplanetary data, at

    just the right level for introductory graduate & undergraduate classes. has tutorials and pre-made homework. So responsive!
  4. R + R packages (Python) C library (libsystemic) Gnu Scientific

    Library (GSL) ODEX.f SWIFT.f Mercury.f convert C/Fortran code into JavaScript Open source, but can you dare building it? JAVAAAAAARGH HTML5/JavaScript C Fortran
  5. Systemic is employed in classes at Caltech, Caltech, UF, MIT,

    SJSU, Delaware, Yale, Columbia, UCSC, and others, reaching ∼500 students to date, and was part of a homework on the MOOC “The Science of the Solar System” , taken by ∼13,000 Coursera students. However, it can’t be the end-all of a good education & outreach platform: it is still too complicated to use, and not immediate enough!
  6. SUPER PLANET CRASH A “minimum viable game” about gravity.


  8. Imgur, io9 The Verge, HuffPost, VICE, Hacker News, Twitter Google

    Analytics, April-May 2014
  9. ~12,000,000 games played by ~500,000 users since April Huffington Post

    The Verge Hacker News, front page Washington Post Physics World SciAm News io9 VICE The Creators Project & others
  10. Exhibit @ the Seattle Museum of Flight

  11. What do 12,000,000 clicks look like? [subset of 100,000] U/L

    bias Closer to the controls on the left- hand side of the window; People pay more attention to upper field of vision “Crosshair” bias Related to “oblique effect”? Empirical preference for cardinal directions Orbital spin
  12. 12,000,000 plays, big pulsating Donate button $70 in donations to

    McDonald Observatory 6.4 × 10-6 dollars per game Can YOU guess?
  13. $70 in donations to McDonald Observatory 6.4 × 10-6 dollars

    per game Can YOU guess? 11,000,000 plays, big pulsating Donate button
  14. Longhorn Innovation Fund for Technology (LIFT) Awards seed money for

    pilot projects. We’re funded for 2014-2015. I’m funded to do full-time development! Goal Develop customizable educational apps with deep game elements, with a high degree of scientific accuracy and ties to real astronomical data. Stefano Meschiari (UT Austin) Randi Ludwig (UT, UTeach) Joel Green (StScI) The SAVE-Point collaboration:
  15. Philosophy of the pilot project • A suite of apps

    will provide students at all levels with a “virtual astronomy lab” , running in their browser. No installation hassle, can run on mobile platforms, easily accessible anywhere. • Prioritize accurate physics, real astronomical datasets, game-level fun and engaging design. • Easy scoring/grading systems for instructors. • Complete customizability by instructors. OR Touch Gesture Reference Guide Press Double tap Tap Press and drag Drag Press and tap, then drag 1 2 Press and tap Multi-finger tap 1 2 Orbits Systemic Classroom scores
  16. Why games? Often the goals of entertain and educate can

    come into conflict. [...] There will be non-local maxima which are progressively less recognisable to you. - Martin Hollis (former Head of software at Rare; director of GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark)
  17. • People learn better by interactive engagement than passive listening

    (Hake 1998, Prather et al. 2004) • Watching entertaining lectures is not enough (Duncan, 1999) • Lecture demos are not enough, as students often remember them wrong (Miller, Lasry, Chu, & Mazur, 2013) • People learn best by being exposed to material in multiple ways. E.g. in-class instruction + discussion + interactive games (Kress, Jewitt, Ogborn, & Charalampos, 2006; Tulving, 1985; Vekiri, 2002) ...But research supports interactive learning & “gamification”
  18. Orbits

  19. None
  20. None
  21. Our projects Each mission in the applets have a specific

    educational goal. These will be quick to develop & easily customizable by an instructor. APPLETS Examples: • Gravity simulator (orbits) • Habitability • Super Planet Crash • Exposure time simulator ... Activities where students and citizen scientists can interact with real astronomical data. Start out simple, become open- ended. SYSTEMIC/DATA ANALYSIS Examples: • Systemic “On Rails” , using radial velocity and photometric data. instructor. SIM-TELESCOPE Simulate the planning and running of a survey, e.g. to discover exoplanets. Take care of: • Budget • Time constraints • Data analysis • ...
  22. Open-source, standard tools • Universal apps built on HTML5 +

    JavaScript stack that can run on any device with a browser. • Instructors, students, researchers can customize and transform our software. • Since the license will be free and open-source compatible, anyone will be free to fully modify the code. Want to take a peek? Send me an email and we’ll add you to the GitHub repository!
  23. Interactive small-scale exhibits A cut-down version of our applications could

    be ideal for small astronomy demos and exhibits. Our group just got a small department grant to outfit several floors of our buildings with wall-mounted iPads running educational apps. A lot of kids don’t know how to use a trackpad or a mouse!
  24. Thank you! Questions? Super Planet Crash: Orbits: Systemic:
  25. None
  26. None
  27. Sketch: Exoplanet Scout 4:21 PM 100% Survey planning Discoveries Back

    • Populate a field of stars (e.g. the Kepler field) with a known, synthetic exoplanet population. • Select a portion of the field and start the challenge. • Design a survey: telescope, methods, schedule, budget, operating costs. • Each discovery nets points and money. Money& Time& O+o&Struve&2.1m& Harlan&J.&Smith&2.7m& Hobby&Eberly&9.2m& Planets&Found:&&27& Points:&&12,180&
  28. PART 2 - Conclusions • We are developing a suite

    of educational apps with a focus on Astronomy, funded under the LIFT program. • We expect to have usable activities in time for Spring 2015. These activities will run on the web, on any modern computer or mobile device. • Post-Spring 2015, we will be able to assess the impact and reach of our initiative. • Applications are being developed under an open-source license and hosted on GitHub (pending UT approval). • We are interested in (a) implementing new or expanded modules from our basic set and (b) inviting others to produce related material and connect with us.
  29. Summer 2015 • Assess educational outcomes; • Plan for future

    development and expansion; • Apply for grants! Timeline Fall 2014 • Development & implementation; • Curriculum development; • Initial in-classroom testing. Spring 2015 • Further development of more complex apps; • Classroom implementation. (funding started this month)