Category: ExoTrex

National Chemistry Week 2018

Next week is National Chemistry Week 2018! National Chemistry Week is an annual event hosted by the American Chemistry Society across the nation in order to get kids interested in the field. Each year has a new theme: last year’s was Chemistry Rocks and focused on geochemistry. This year, Chemistry is Out of the This World!

To get you started celebrating this event, we collected resources and pulled out a few highlights to get you started on planning the week. Check it out!

National Chemistry Week Events

National Chemistry Week 2018

The ACS has plenty of tips when it comes to organizing events in your area for NCW. From recruiting volunteers to getting access to local venues, and more, the resources on the website are meant to help teachers and interested parties prepare for the week!

The community event for this year is planning a trip to a planetarium or science museum. Find one nearby and bring your kids or students there to learn about outer space! It fits into the year’s theme of Out of This World. Use an established tour, make one yourself, or see if its possible to customize the experience to the age group you’re targeting. You could even scale it down to a visit to the local library to check out books about outer space.

Chemistry Experiments and Activities

If you don’t want to organize a field trip for the event, try out some suggested activities and experiments instead. In honor of National Chemistry Week, the ACS holds an illustrated poem competition. Consider inviting students to join for a full on STEAM activity. There’s even a prize for the first and second place winner. Check out all the requirements here.

If you would rather stick with an experiment, the ACS has you covered on that regard too. Their Celebrating Chemistry packet is full of themed experiments. Students could make their own UV wristband or even create oxygen. They’re all relatively easy to set up, so see what might work for you.

Out of This World with ExoTrex!

Of course, we can’t get through an event about space travel without throwing our own space exploration learning game into the mix. ExoTrex casts players as an astronaut trying to find a new home for humanity in outer space. Chemistry, physics, and more are all included in the experience, so try it out for yourself to see how the game can enhance STEM education in the classroom!

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Women’s History Month: Female Space Pioneers

Female Space Astronauts, Cosmonauts, and Mathematicians

As we continue through Women’s History Month, we take a look back at some female space pioneers. The women served in all kinds of roles from helping build rockets to riding in them. No matter their position, all the women featured here cemented their position in space history through their many accomplishments.

Katherine Johnson and the Mathematicians of NASA

At the beginning of World War II, the demand for aeronautical engineering began increasing exponentially. Langley Memorial Aeronautical Labratory began hiring women in 1935 to do number crunching. Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 book Hidden Figures told the stories of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan along with many others. Additionally,  the critically acclaimed 2017 movie based on the book focused on these “human calculators.”

The women highlighted in Hidden Figures worked for NACA (later NASA) starting in the 40s and 50s. Through their math, they worked on making the flying machines better, stronger, and faster and calculating flight trajectories for important missions, including the Apollo missions.

NASA recognized Katherine Johnson specifically in 2017 through naming the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility after her. Without the research and dedication of Johnson and her contemporaries, NASA would not be the same as it is today.

The Very First Woman in Space

The first female space explorer- first woman in spaceValentina Tereshkova orbited the Earth 48 times and became the first woman in space in June of 1963. Before being chosen as a Soviet cosmonaut, she never even flew a plane. Rather, she was a textile worker and amateur parachute jumper. The latter skill earned her the job. After eighteen months of grueling training, she became the only woman out of five to be selected.

Beyond just being the first woman in space, she remains the only woman to ever fly a solo mission. Since her mission, Museum exhibits, stage plays, and documentaries celebrated her space legacy . Additionally, she carried the Olympic torch for part of its journey in both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Sally Ride: Female Physicist and American Astronaut

The first American woman to go to space and the youngest astronaut everSally Ride blasted down barriers as she blasted into space in 1983 as the first American female astronaut to actually enter the final frontier. She served as a mission specialist on the STS-7 space shuttle mission. As a mission specialist on that flight, Ride worked a robotic arm to help release satellites into space.

After her time as an active astronaut, Ride continued to work in the STEM field, particularly in encouraging STEM education. She wrote books about space exploration and co-founded Sally Ride Science in 2001. Her work with the organization aimed to support students into careers within STEM, particularly girls and minorities. Through teacher training, books, festivals, classroom activities and more, she sought to transform the idea of what a successful scientist could look like. Even after her death in 2013, her legacy continues.

The Women of ExoTrex 2

ExoTrex2 stem game character concept of female space operativeWhen looking to engage students in STEM learning and space exploration, look no further than ExoTrex 2, a game that will test their physics, chemistry and critical thinking abilitities. Exotrex 2 is a beautifully rendered, STEM focused game that will challenge and engage your 8th – 10th grade science students.

The player partners with the AI Fiona and supervisor Dr. Estelle Burke, a female space pioneer herself, to find a new home for humanity. To complete this mission, students start by balancing speed, thrust, and acceleration while navigating gravitational fields to successfully land rovers on their chosen planet or moon. Also, they remotely navigate their rovers to collect ground and atmospheric samples and later analyze them for their chemical compositions.  Finally, Students will learn about the planetary characteristics of each destination and take observational notes in order to report their findings back to Dr. Burke. 

Help get your students passionate about space with these profiles of female space history-makers and by going hands-on with ExoTrex!

Get into Space with ExoTrex 2
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World Space Week 2017

World Space Week iconThis week marks World Space Week which runs from October 4th to October 10th. The theme of this week is “Exploring New Worlds in Space” which, according to their website, “…serves to inspire the World. It puts as a focal point astrobiology missions like New Horizons (NASA’s first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt)” They also mention projects like Space X and Lockheed Martin’s Orion Multi-Purposed Crew Vehicle which all look to explore human interaction and inhabitation of space.  

This year we saw the dramatic Grand Finale of the Cassini space craft after a 13-year run orbiting Saturn, its moons, and rings. The craft was launched on October 15, 1997 and spent 7 years on a journey that took it near Venus, Earth, through the Asteroid Belt, around Jupiter, and then finally reaching orbit around Saturn. That was just the trip there!  

ExoTrex 2 is perfect for World Space WeekCassini also dropped off the Huygens Probe onto the surface of one of Saturn’s moons, Titan. This was the first time a craft had landed on the surface of an outer solar system world. The probe showed scientists a landscape that looked very similar to Earth’s with rivers, volcanoes, shores, and seas. However, the liquid is not water, but methane and ethane! 

Other discoveries included an ocean under the frozen surface of Enceladus, seven new moons, new images of massive storms at the poles of Saturn. After years of orbiting Saturn, power was beginning to run low so the team made the decision to send it into a death plunge. Scientists were worried if the power ran out that the craft could smash into one of the moons and cause damage so they decided to plunge it into Saturn’s atmosphere where it would burn up and lessen any potential damage.  

Our space exploration game, ExoTrex 2, uses some of the information we learned from the Cassini mission. In ExoTrex 2, players explore Venus, Mercury, and the moon Titan. They perform experiments, one of which is landing a rover on the surface of Titan! They must balance thrusters against the gravitational pull to accurately land it and then explore the cryovolcanoes and landscape of Titan to figure out if it is suitable for life. 

World Space Week was recognized by the UN General Assembly in 1999 and celebrates the effect of science and technology on the world each year. We support these initiatives and hope that our ExoTrex series can help to spark interest in these fields for the future generations. 

 

 

 


The Total Eclipse is a Start

Millions of people will look skyward today to witness the solar eclipse. The orbit of Earth and our moon have never been on so many minds at the same time.  During this event, we are experiencing something together on Earth as a united humanity.

 

ExoTrex and the eclipse

Exotrex2 – Dig-It! Games

Space has fascinated people from the dawn of time. People from the past spent nights gazing at the heavens and creating meaning from the milky way. For travelers, stars were used as guideposts.  Ancient civilizations used them to predict seasons, align temples and marvel at the periodic events like the eclipse we will soon witness today.  Not only do we witness this collectively today, we also connect to our ancestors who were sometimes deathly frightened by events like solar eclipses.

 

Our understanding of what is happening today comes on the shoulders of ancient and current astronomers. Over the course of lifetimes, they studied and observed space.  No longer are we fearful of what we are about to observe.  In fact, we are welcoming this once considered sign of doom-and-gloom.  We here at Dig-It! Games are also excited to be witnessing this rare event and one of our colleagues has been walking around with eclipse glasses in his pocket for weeks in great anticipation!

 

Space and the eclipse

Exotrex2 Dig-It! Games

We have many people to thank for our current understanding of space and we have been fortunate at Dig-It! Games to have teamed up with an amazing astrophysicist in the making of our game Exotrex.  Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi is an accomplished astrophysicist, cosmologist, inventor and currently an educator working with NASA who became the voice of our main character Dr. Gerald Burke.  It was great to work with him on the first episode of Exotrex and also to introduce him to students at Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C. to share his love for science and his life’s journey!

 

Exotrex challenges students to train as astronauts in preparation for an epic journey to find a new planet after life on Earth has become unsustainable.  It is an exciting and challenging program that prepares students for this harrowing mission.

Gameplay from ExoTrex

Exotrex2 Dig-It! Games

However, the fun and challenge does not stop there!  It is with great pleasure that we announce that Exotrex2 is now available for you to play!  Continue the quest to find a new planet for humanity by traveling to Mars, Titan, Mercury and Venus and explore the physical and chemical composition of each destination.  Collect your evidence and report your findings back to Dr. Burke.  Carefully land probes on distant planets, navigate land rovers to collect planetary samples and analyze their chemical composition all while exploring the entire solar system!  It will get you up in the stars much like our ancestors would have liked to do and much like many of us would like to do on a day like today!

After you watch the eclipse, get inspired and journey through space by playing Exotrex2 Today!


Explore ExoPlanets With Dr. Oluseyi

Dr. Hakeem talks to students at Roosevelt High School“If you can see it, you can believe you can do it, then you will do it.” This was just one of the many pieces of advice from Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi to students at Roosevelt High School (part of DCPS) in Washington, D.C.. Many of the students had played our game, Exotrex, in class and were excited to find out that Dr. Hakeem is the voice of Dr. Burke from our game! Many of the DC Public Schools (DCPS) do a great job of promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers and Roosevelt HS is no different. We were so thrilled that both Dr. Hakeem and our DIG-IT! Games senior artist, Mikel Wellington, were able to speak to these eager students as part of Black History Month.

Dr. Hakeem talks to students at Roosevelt High School


Dr. Hakeem’s resume is long and impressive. He holds a Master’s Degree and PHD in Physics from Stanford. He is an astrophysicist, cosmologist, inventor, educator, actor, and humanitarian. Currently he hosts
Outrageous Acts of Science on the Science Channel and is an Space Science Education Manager for NASA. By his list of accomplishments, it may seem that he has little in common with students from an urban school district, but nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Planetary Science Can Change Your Life


During two assemblies in the high school’s auditorium, Dr. Hakeem spoke about his tough upbringing moving around a lot with his single mother. He spoke to the DCPS students about dropping out of college because math was too hard and he didn’t think he could do it. When he finally decided to go back, he worked through every single calculus problem in the textbook to learn it. He emphasized setting goals and being persistent even thought other people may not believe in you. He discussed the stigmas involved in race and physical appearance and urged the students to look past what is expected of them to what they are truly passionate about. 

WormHoles, Time Travel, and Black Holes Can Lead to Career Goals

The teachers then chose a few students to have lunch with Dr. Hakeem and Mikel. One student walked in with a list of questions for the astrophysicist that included discussing wormholes, time travel, and black holes all of which Dr. Hakeem responded to enthusiastically. It was very inspiring to watch the students interact personally with both Dr. Hakeem and Mikel.

This is what Mikel had to say about the experience:

“What an experience to see the future of your craft reflected at you. That was the immediate personal reaction that I had attending Roosevelt HS this past Friday to speak to many of the young scholars there. One of the key aspects that we tried to focus on was the importance of setting goals and the follow through no matter what their passions are. It’s not only important to have a dream and to believe that it is obtainable with undeniable sincerity and drive, but to also move in that direction with the mentality that failure is impossible. One of the most important aspects of any type of artistic production is not just theory, but the actual act of doing that task. I spoke with a young man who had a passion for movies and wanted to get into film. The level of excitement that he had in his eyes and how he spoke to the things he wanted seemed to unlock with encouragement. For that young film maker, encouraging him to make films now with his camera on his phone, and free editing software in his free time was an avenue I don’t believe he had yet considered. This was enough to spark a level of focus and purpose that he hadn’t yet unlocked, and to me that was everything.

One of the things I realized when speaking to this wonderful group of kids was that they weren’t aware that even at this stage in their lives, they have the power to create right now. I’m very thankful for my time there and having the opportunity to share my life experiences with these young scholars. I can’t wait to see what they contribute to the world not only in our future tomorrow, but also today.”

Students at Roosevelt after hearing from Dr. Hakeem

Related Reading


Memorize the Solar System!

What is the best way to teach students about the solar system? As an instructor, what instructional methods might you choose to present the content? The traditional method chosen is to have students read about the solar system from their science textbook or do you choose to utilize Game-Based Learning? The first method can be dry, impersonal, and depending on the year it was published, inaccurate. Some instructors will infuse text readings with primary sources, such as articles, videos, and photos from or about space to help students visualize and understand the content better. These additions will supplement and heighten instruction to encompass visual, spatial, linguistic and auditory modes of learning.

After teaching about the solar system, many students are required to show proficiency on an assessment or project. To prepare for this, one method chosen by students is to make flashcards. This form of learning or memorization only works for some students; one such proficient example of this form of learning is the brilliant four-year-old Brielle. Watch her here on the Ellen Show!

But as all seasoned teachers know, flashcards are not a tool that works for all students. What all students need are hands-on experiences that allow students to explore and apply the new information found in their schema. Now, this can be hard to do while learning about the solar system, being that the closest planet, Venus, can vary from 38 million to 261 million kilometers away. This presents a problem if we want students to apply new understanding of concepts learned to real life examples.

One solution is virtual reality. Pairing traditional methods of instruction with game-based learning can lead to amazing results. Games are digital learning tools that allow a student to apply their knowledge while playing and analyze the outcomes to determine if concepts need to be revisited and reviewed in a non-threatening environment. Losing a game does not hold the same negative stigma that a bad grade on an exam holds. A student can play and replay a game until mastery of the concept or level is achieved!

Within this format, a teacher will be able to gather and determine their student’s performance and therefore determine areas that need to be reviewed and which areas show mastery. This method of instruction is called Game-Based Learning and it is proving to be a great way to blend curriculum standards with interactive learning fun.

To learn more about Game-Based Learning check out the infographic below from www.online-education-degrees.net.

To explore the solar system, check out our new educational digital game; ExoTrex Episode 1 and begin the journey incorporating Game-Based Learning into your classroom!


ExoTrex Space Adventure Game

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship ….B.E.A.K.E.R…. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Many will remember this phrase from the introductory sequence of the Star Trek series but in this case our starship is not the Enterprise, but B.E.A.K.E.R, the ship introduced in our newest space adventure STEM game, ExoTrex™. ExoTrex™ takes place in the not-so distant future, where humanity has used up all Earth’s resources and must find a new place to live. Using an innovative new fuel cell called B.E.A.K.E.R (Basic Element Analysis Kinetic Energy Reactor), players must use their chemistry and critical thinking skills to explore deep space and investigate exoplanets to find a new home for the human race.

For many middle and high school students, chemistry, physics and planetary science studies might seem just as challenging as the Enterprise’s mission in Star Trek, but ExoTrex™ can help. ExoTrex™ was designed for students from 8th to 10th grades and uses fun puzzles and problem solving exercises to build critical thinking skills that promote college and career readiness across STEM content areas including: science, math, and science literacy. In an effort to reach underserved students, DIG-IT! Games® ensured the ExoTrex™ narrative and characters would also appeal to minority students who are severely underrepresented in STEM education and careers.

In the newly released Episode 1 of ExoTrex™, players prove their readiness for the mission by completing a series of training exercises that test their chemistry understanding, knowledge of space history and critical thinking skills. Players who make it through this rigorous mission training will take the B.E.A.K.E.R. ship on a variety of exploratory missions in space in future episodes.

 

Students who play ExoTrex™ will meet Dr. Gerald Burke, an African American character who is based on the grandfather of DIG-IT! Games Artist Mikel Wellington. As DIG-IT! Games’ CEO says, “Dr. Burke’s presence in the game elevates the product from a game about science to a game about successfully overcoming barriers and challenges. His story is inspirational and it’s our hope that including him in this game will serve to motivate students of color to enter STEM fields.”

To increase the reach and impact of ExoTrex™, DIG-IT! Games partnered with renowned Astrophysicist, Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi who, in addition to being a star on the popular TV show, Outrageous Acts of Science, is also the Chief Science Officer for both Discovery Communications and the Science Channel.

“The decision to partner with DIG-IT! Games was easy because we are both on a mission to use innovative ways to teach and to reach underserved kids.” Says Dr. Oluseyi, “The diversity in ExoTrex™ is especially important because it’s empowering to students to see and hear someone who looks like them and sounds like them doing science. Today you have to capture kids’ attention in seconds. The visuals in ExoTrex™ do that.”

 

The game’s three episodes will challenge students to not only learn to power the ion propulsion ship, but also to sample the planetary characteristics of known and unknown planets as they analyze, evaluate and make recommendations for an alternative to Earth. Students will love this immersive STEM experience while they have a hand in helping humanity in the not-too-distant future!

Learn more about the game and how to purchase it here. This game is part of our “Get One, Give One” campaign (#GOGOLEARN) where we give away one game for each game purchased. Learn more about our GoGoLearn campaign and our partnership with NSLA to fight summer learning loss through gaming here.

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