I participated in the Space Zone of the 2012 Irish I’m A Scientist contest while finishing off my PhD. I was both surprised and elated to win it! (proof: sciencecalling.com/2012/11/23/primary-school-students-pick-top-scientists) I then defended my thesis, got married, and moved to California…whew. Finally, this summer I was granted a bit of free time to kick off my ‘dream’ project: SolarSurfer.org. My proposal is to build an interactive, story-driven, educational website to help bring astronomy and space concepts into the Irish class room.
I managed to put together a consortium of solar scientists, teacher and outreach consultants, and web/game/graphic design developers. Using the Irish school curriculum, with the help of Irish school teachers, we are designing lessons that can be used in the class room to teach concepts such as magnetism, gravity, and the planets. The lessons are made to be engaging through our use of comic book-style art work, and the linear background story is used as a vehicle. Each lesson ends with an on-line quiz about the lesson (teachers will have access to the results), followed by the student being rewarded with a web-integrated mini-game, designed to subtly teach the student a space themed concept, such as orbital mechanics (ever played Galaga?).
With the prize, I obtained some web space and the domain name, and hired a web designer to put together a nice splash page for the project. I am currently working with a graphic designer to put together a sample comic book page, introducing the background story. So, with the I’m a Scientist money we now have nice page (http://solarsurfer.org; work in progress!) advertising the project and its elements. Building on our I’m a Scientist-funded proof of concept, the Solar Surfer team is currently working on a proposal for a substantial outreach grant to continue the development process and engage Irish schools during 2014. Wish us luck!
Hopefully those amazing students that voted for my project in the Space Zone will see the Solar Surfer team visit their schools in a year or two!
Paul and the Solar Surfer Team