An Interactive Software approach to promoting Space Science and Technology Education

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Generally in Africa, Space Science and Technology is considered a very difficult and esoteric field reserved for the “ultra intelligent”. Hence Space Science and Technology as an educational option continues to be seen as an option to be completely avoided. This trend could seriously hamper the progress and development of space technology in the continent with adverse long term effects.

Consequently this paper focuses on bolstering Space Science and Technology Education in the continent by the pragmatic fusion of exciting entertainment software with a highly focused educative curriculum content. Furthermore, there exists an avalanche of evidence to show that youths and young minds will naturally prefer to play a game or engage in an entertaining software rather than to read an academic textbook having the same content.

This paper further covers the development of an educational software – “Launch Director!” that is designed with the aim of serving as a compendium on rocketry curriculum for a wide range of users. The software is structured in three complementary phases with detailed rocketry tutorials and academic demonstrations skillfully embellished with entertaining games, interactive designs and quizzes. It also intelligently provides a phase which enhances the learning process. The user is put in a simulation environment with practical hands-on experience, requiring critical mission assumptions, decisions and calculations with instant response and feedback. This ultimately fuses the entire concept that has been learnt so far, with the simulated real life scenarios.

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An Interactive Software approach to promoting Space Science and Technology Education

  1. 1. Promoting Space Science and Technology in Africa: An Interactive Software Approach Baiyere, Fadare Abayomi (Research Scientist/Software Developer) ABSTRACTGenerally in Africa, Space Science and Technology is considered a very difficult and esotericfield reserved for the “ultra intelligent”. Hence Space Science and Technology as aneducational option continues to be seen as an option to be completely avoided. This trend couldseriously hamper the progress and development of space technology in the continent withadverse long term effects.Consequently this paper focuses on bolstering Space Science and Technology Education in thecontinent by the pragmatic fusion of exciting entertainment software with a highly focusededucative curriculum content.Furthermore, there exists an avalanche of evidence to show that youths and young minds willnaturally prefer to play a game or engage in an entertaining software rather than to read anacademic textbook having the same content.This paper further covers the development of an educational software – “Launch Director!”that is designed with the aim of serving as a compendium on rocketry curriculum for a widerange of users.The software is structured in three complementary phases with detailed rocketry tutorials andacademic demonstrations skillfully embellished with entertaining games, interactive designs andquizzes. It also intelligently provides a phase which enhances the learning process. The user isput in a simulation environment with practical hands-on experience, requiring critical missionassumptions, decisions and calculations with instant response and feedback. This ultimatelyfuses the entire concept that has been learnt so far, with this simulated real life scenarios.KEY WORDS: Education, Simulation, Fusion, Development, Space curriculum and SpaceAwareness Realising the Need for Space Education is not enough to propel Africa to the desiredINTRODUCTION level of space preparedness. There is also a strong need for careful consideration of theThe relevance of Space Science and most effective and impactful approach thatTechnology in the world and to mankind can will give the desired goal in a short period ofnot be over emphasized. In order for Africa time. This is necessary because the marginto be an active participant in global space between Africa and other continents of theactivities, there needs to be a huge focus on world in terms of space development andspace education in the continent. activities is so wide that if the conventional 3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab
  2. 2. educational methods alone are applied, education and generate spaceAfrica will continue to play catch up with awareness in the continent.the rest of the world for indeed a very longtime. These are some of the highlights of the issues that are addressed by this approach toThe question to be answered now is this: promoting space education and development“What are the effective and impactful in the continent. These highlighted pointseducational approaches that can be cut across three major professional fieldsimplemented?” ranging from:This paper presents one unique identified  student/learning psychologyanswer to this question: the use ofinteractive educational games and  pedagogy and educational systemsimulation softwares.  educational infrastructures and institutions.BACKGROUND TO STUDY (The This invariably implies that there are severalAfrican Educational system Overview) stakeholders required for the successful implementation of an adequate interventionSome key factors observed in the African to space education and capacity building incontext of space development forms the Africa.basis for this educational approach. A quickoverview of the present status of space Space Orientation:education in Africa reveals the following: In Africa the interest in Space activities  In Africa, most people consider the needs to be built first before we can study of space science and effectively build a sustaining capacity for technology to be a field for the space development. How then can space gifted. This misconception further activity be promoted to effectively generate alienates the young people that form a susbstantial interest? To answer this the core of the future of the continent question we need to identify the factors that from taking up educational can make space education as an academic programmes in this field. option, an option that has been avoided by most.  The dominant method of tutoring in Chief among these reasons is the Africa is the conventional method of misconception that space science and reading space text books amidst an technology is for the most intelligent and the allocution of instructions. This best in the society. To make a “difficult pedagogical approach can gradually task” seemingly easy there has to be an drain the zeal and interest from element of interest and the task becomes initial space enthusiast. even easier if an element of fun is introduced into it. A task that is presented in  There also exists an Insufficient a manner that makes it fun will, among other availability of educational resources possible options, undoubtedly generate and institutions to promotes space interest. 3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab
  3. 3. Pedagogical Orientation: needed. Another essential step is Including space science as part of the educationalThe continent is in the transitory process of curriculum in schools and also making thegradually evolving from the era where basic educational resources available for thispeople are cajoled, encouraged and even purpose.coerced to get education to a point whereevery one knows and appreciate the need tobe educated. For a society in such atransition phase, it becomes necessary to SPACE EDUCATION INTERVENTIONadapt a welcoming and exciting pedagogy CONCEPTapproach for such a developmental The concept discussed in this paper as anendeavour as space science and technology. intervention means to promote the level ofUsing an inviting pedagogical approach is space education in the planet, is based on theespecially necessary to counter the use of interactive tools, especiallymisconceptions of the special abilities simulation softwares and educational games.required to understand the so called The major driver of this concept is the“difficult” space concepts. balanced fusion of educational curriculumSpace Institutions: and entertaining concepts into the softwares. Therefore it is an approach that does notThere exists a large vaccum to be filled in consider education or entertainment butthe process of passing across relevant rather education and entertainment as itsinformation that can significantly increase core.the level of participation of Africa in Spaceactivities. If this vaccum is to be ever filled, Considering the challenges of spacethe issue of “how, who and where?” education in Africa highlighted above, atherefore arises. This are key questions for closer look will be taken to observe thedecision makers to develope an answer and impact and rationale justifying thisimplement a solution to. approach.If we consider primarily the “why?” of this Space Orientation Intervention:issues we can logically generate several It has been identified that a vast majority ofreasons by considering the counter question Africans shy away from space related“why not?” If there is a genuine interest to activities because of the impression thatpromote the involvement of the continent in space as a topic is very complex and itspace development then, why not? If there should be reserved for the developed nationsexists a vision to develope the space where there are super brilliant and intelligentcapacity building of the latent potentials in people. This perception has furtherthe continent, then why not? These among decreased the passion and zest to learn or toother generated reasonings can help be involved in space research andstimulate and identify developmental development.options of effective space institutions inAfrica. To make a seemingly complex task appear easy, interest needs to be built on that task.Basically, institutions that will promote and A basic principle of generating interest ininspire space activities in the continent are 3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab
  4. 4. such a case is to make the task become fun helps us maximise the existingand entertaining rather than arduous and infrastructures while creating the networkburdensome. for future development.Hence, the introduction of educative and yetentertaining softwares and games becomesan invaluable tool. This approach is aimed at CASE STUDY: LAUNCH DIRECTOR!making perceived complex tasks contain Concept Discussion:some elements of fun and challenge, whichinspires the interest required to pass the Launch Director [LD] is an Educationalmain educative content across. Software Game that is designed with the aimPedagogical Intervention: of serving as a complete compendium on rocketry for educational purposes. LD isFurthermore, the pedagogical approach used aimed at passing across real life educationto present space concepts to students or about rockets with an excitingparticipants in Africa should be reviewed toallow for interactions, feedback and of embellishment of entertaining funcourse fun without losing focus of the main options.(see figure 1)aim.While maintaining the intellectual capacitypresent in the continent it is also important METHODOLOGYthat the younger generations are targetted Design Process:because then we are sure this knowledgewont fade away easily and we are certain The design of the software involved athat we are building the foundation for the research in two dimensions: first, decidingfuture of space development in the on the rocketry concepts to be focused oncontinent. and understanding the principles behind these concepts, and second, the mostSpace Institution Intervention: effective presentation approach to be usedWith the present state of institutions and without compromising the educational andinfrastructures available in Africa, the use of entertainment objectives.(see figure 2)an interactive solution like the softwaresimulation presented in this paper can be an The software design has been structured as aeffective way to provide an educational 3-in-1 software with three complementaryplatform where resources can be shared and phases:the cost of replicating devices andlaboratories can be minimised. Phase I [Rocket Structure and Design]:This concept however does not diminsh the This phase of LD introduces users to theneed for increased contact points for space fundamentals of building a rocket usingeducation. Instead it is an option to be used variants from water rockets to theas an intervention for the present before the sophisticated future Space Shuttle!institutions are created and also after theyhave been created. It is an approach that 3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab
  5. 5. A selection is made by the user from the list of a simulated real life rocket launchof possible rockets. Users are then provided situation, where he/she needs to makewith parts of a rockets required to assemble mission critical decisions, assumptions andthe rocket selected. They are given a brief even calculations like a real Launchdescription of what the part does and what it Director!is about. The user then has the responsibility For each of the rockets built, the user has theof deciding which of the part options to use priviledge of coordinating all the activitiesand where that part belongs on the rocket. required to launch the rocket. In this phase the user selects a mission (moon mission,The user is guided by the part descriptions payloads deployment, Satellite repair,and further information is provided in phase in‐orbit transfer, Hubble mission e.t.c) and isIII of the software for the assembly process. expected to pick the right rocket for theIf a part is wrongly placed, the software at selected mission and is also saddled with thethe early level will return the wrongly task of ensuring there is a successfulplaced part and provide a brief explanation mission. (see figure 6)on why that part is not a suitable choice. (see A successful mission involves: successfulfigure 3& 4) take off, attaining the right escape velocity,As the user improves in the assembly flying at the right weather conditions, takingprocess the software provides him with more all necessary equipments for the mission,difficult rocket assemblies. The user avoiding overloading the rocket (mass –therefore proceeds gradually from the first weight considerations), fuel consumptionassembly (water rocket) to other known consideration, and several other criticalrocket models and finally to a complex mission dependent decisions.fictitious space shuttle.(see figure 5) Each responsibility opens an avenue forThe objective of this phase is to help the educational exposure to materials, samples,user gain a good understanding of the basic theories, formulas, demos e.t.c that focusesrocket design principles, parts, composition, on that point. The user is expected to makeabilities, capacities, mission history among mistakes but at each point he is guided bymany other rocket design concepts. the relevant materials to reveal the necessary knowledge that is required to go beyond thatThe user is fed several educational details point and proceed in the simulation until awhile keeping him engaged in the challenge succesful mission is achieved.of getting the next rocket built. He implicitlygathers knowledge, applies the knowledge The key target of this is to allow the users toand will respond to questions relating to have a virtual hands-on session. The effectknowledge gathered here in phase III. of decisions are made visible to them and they are able to appreciate how a change inPhase II [Rocket Launch Simulations]: one of the launch parameters can affect theThis phase puts the user in the drivers’ seat whole launch process. They are also made 3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab
  6. 6. aware of the basic concepts required for a Progress through this phase is punctuated byrocket launch, including the Dos & Don’ts . a series of interactive questions and scenarios where the user is expected toPhase III [Rocketry Tutorials & Demos]: answer or make a decision. Some presentedThis phase basically provides general scenarios have no True or False answers buteducational information and materials. It the software provides more explanationsprovides the insight and knowledge required based on the selected choice of the user,to navigate through the other two phases thereby providing an interactive learningprogressively. The presentation of the session.(see figure 7 & 8)tutorials is spiced with interactive scenario- The present software version is targetted at,based discussions, questions & answers, but not limited to, students in the secondaryvideos and pictorial descriptions to visually school, space enthusiasts and the learnedbring home each point to varying degree of space connoisseur.The basic platform for theusers. software has been developed with the aim toFor the more academically inclined user, further develope it and continuously upgradethis phase can be directly utilised to get the its scope and simulation capacities to covertheoretical details covered about rocketry. these principles. Figure 1: Opening view of the Launch Director 3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab
  7. 7. Figure 2: The Software Menu options Figure 3: View of the assembly stage for a water rocket.3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab
  8. 8. Figure 4: A completed water Rocket assembly Figure 5: View of the rocket options for assembly and missions3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab
  9. 9. Figure 6: Snapshot of a water rocket Launching Pad Figure 7: View of some topics covered by the educational material.3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab
  10. 10. Figure 8: View of an educational resource in the software.CONCLUSION ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSpace for Africa, Space in Africa, Space by I thankfully acknowledge the support ofAfricans! For an effective improvement of African Regional Centre for Space Sciencethe level of space activities in Africa, there and Technology Education – Englishneeds to be a build up of interest by Africans (ARCSSTEE/NASRDA) of the Federalto learn more and discover the possibilities Ministry of Science and Technology;that space development offers. To achieve especially the immediate past and presentthis, an approach has been patterned after Directors, Lt. Colonel Alobawone A. ofthe natural tendencies that inspire interest – Ghana Armed Forces, Mrs Lami Fadiora,Entertainment. This thus leads to a fusion of Mr Leye Salu, Mr Kayode Adepoju, MissEducation and Entertainment with the aim to Funmi Erinfolami, Mr Etim Offiong and Mr.educate while entertaining and eventual Echi Friday.conquer the fear and lack of interest that isthreatening the advancement of spaceeducation in the continent. 3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab
  11. 11. BIBLIOGRAPHY1. Deborah A. Shearer, Gregory L. Vogt, Ed. D. NASA Rockets guide: An Educator’s Guide with Activities In Science, Mathematics and Technology2. Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009.3. Prof. O. O. Jegede, Space Education and capacity building for sustainable development in Africa. First African Leadership Conference on space science and Technology for Sustainable development – Unpublished Presentation, 20054. K. W. Hipel, M. M. Jamshidi, J. M. Tien, and C. C. White III, The Future of Systems, Man, and Cybernetics: Application Domains and Research Methods, IEEE Trans. on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics – Part C: Applications and Reviews, 37(5), 2007, 726 - 743.5. A trip to outer space (Image credit) http://hulchul.urdupoint.com/HC/index.php ?showtopic=214629 3rd IAA Regional Conference Space for Africa: Joint Participation, Knowledge Development and Sharing follow on twitter: speak2ab

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