Education

Universe Sandbox at the American Astronomical Society Conference

Super Bowl of Astronomy

In early January we gathered some of our team in Seattle, Washington to show off Universe Sandbox at the 233rd meetup of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

We’ve attended other conferences before that focus on video games, like PAX, but AAS gave us an opportunity to show Universe Sandbox to a different crowd. If you are a researcher, educator, science journalist, or student in the world of astronomy, then AAS is the go-to conference, what some call the “Super Bowl of Astronomy.” And while the government shutdown meant that hundreds of NASA employees who planned on attending couldn’t go, there was still plenty of folk there who had never heard of Universe Sandbox and wanted to learn more.

 

Come for the Collisions, Stay for the Accurate Mass Loss

Drawing people into our booth was helped a bit by two gigantic TVs showing off some of the usual Universe Sandbox scenarios — you know the ones: Earth melting, stars exploding, moons ripping apart under massive tidal stress.

But what made many attendees stick around and talk to us was the fact that what we were showing not only looked great, but it was also based in science. Universe Sandbox: Come for the fiery collisions, stay for the accurate mass loss when Ceres makes a near pass of a white dwarf!

 

Communicating with Universe Sandbox

In talking to AAS attendees, we hoped to show the potential for using Universe Sandbox for education and visualizations. While most Universe Sandbox players know and appreciate how useful it can be as an educational tool, we want to make sure it gets used in actual classrooms. We believe Universe Sandbox makes it quick and easy to demonstrate astronomy and physics concepts with intuitive and interactive experiments. But don’t take our word for it — here’s astronomy YouTuber Scott Manley with a similar message.

And beyond the classroom, it’s just as quick and easy to use Universe Sandbox for creating visualizations for research, lectures, and articles. There are more sophisticated tools for gathering data with the accuracy needed for research, but there’s nothing quite as convenient as Universe Sandbox for then using the data to create a visual representation, as shown here with the discovery of exoplanets around our nearby star Wolf 1061.

If you’re an educator, a researcher, or are otherwise curious how you can use Universe Sandbox for science communication, please get in touch!

 


Universe Sandbox Educational Discounts

Update on Universe Sandbox Educational Discounts, 2018

You can purchase Universe Sandbox ² at an educational discount via TeacherGaming: Buy Universe Sandbox ²

This is a standalone, non-Steam version that comes with a number of lesson plans designed by TeacherGaming. If you have any questions, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help: Contact Us.

We no longer support the original Universe Sandbox.

 

Update on Universe Sandbox for Schools, 2014

We are offering Universe Sandbox free to all those who wish to use it in their classrooms.  If you are interested in using Universe Sandbox for educational purposes, please complete this Google Form: Universe Sandbox for Schools.

We will contact you shortly with further information about receiving a free copy for your school.

Please note: This offer is for the original Universe Sandbox, which is available only for PC. We have recently released the alpha version of Universe Sandbox ² for PC, Mac, and Linux: universesandbox.com. We are not currently offering any educational discounts for Universe Sandbox ².

 

(We continue to offer Universe Sandbox free to schools. This was previously supported by Steam for Schools, a program run by Valve.  They  are no longer running this service. While the website is still up and running, they are no longer accepting applications, so do not contact either Valve or Steam about receiving Universe Sandbox for your school. Instead, please fill out our form. Below is the original blog post about Valve’s service.)

Universe Sandbox is now part of Steam for Schools, a service from Valve.

Steam for Schools is  free to any school anywhere in the world and also includes Valve’s Portal 2.

Schools can sign up for this free program and learn more from their website:
http://www.teachwithportals.com/

2013-06-05 22_40_21-Teach with Portals

NASA Releases Free Video Game

NASA has just released a free multiplayer video game called Moonbase Alpha.

You play as an astronaut on the moon repairing damage to your base after an asteroid hits nearby. Moonbase Alpha showcases a small piece of a more comprehensive multiplayer astronaut game that’s in the works called Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond.

What do you think of the game? Let everyone know in the comments below.

Download for free via Steam

Learn more about Moonbase Alpah on the official NASA website

Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond

Learning How To Make Software

My first experiences in computer programming were in QBasic, a simple DOS based version of BASIC. Qbasic has evolved into VB.NET and it’s sister C# and the development software Visual Studio. While an amazing tool set it just isn’t as simple as it once was. It would likely have overwhelmed me as a 7th grader.

Check out Microsoft’s Small Basic. It makes learning to program simple again, it has a built in turtle (for those that remember LOGO), and it’s free.