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Mathers N.,Victorian Space Science Education Center | Goktogan A.,University of Sydney | Rankin J.,La Trobe University | Anderson M.,Monash University
62nd International Astronautical Congress 2011, IAC 2011 | Year: 2011

Problem-based learning has been demonstrated as an effective methodology for developing analytical skills and critical thinking. The use of scenario-based learning incorporates problem-based learning whilst encouraging students to collaborate with their colleagues and dynamically adapt to their environment. This increased interaction stimulates a deeper understanding and the generation of new knowledge. The Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) uses scenario-based learning in its Mission to Mars, Mission to the Orbiting Space Laboratory and Primary Expedition to the M.A.R.S. Base programs. These programs utilise methodologies such as hands-on applications, immersive-learning, integrated technologies, critical thinking and mentoring to engage students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and highlight potential career paths in science and engineering. The immersive nature of the programs demands specialist environments such as a simulated Mars environment, Mission Control and Space Laboratory, thus restricting these programs to a physical location and limiting student access to the programs. To move beyond these limitations, VSSEC worked with its university partners to develop a web-based mission that delivered the benefits of scenario-based learning within a school environment. The Robotic Mission to Mars allows students to remotely control a real rover, developed by the Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR), on the VSSEC Mars surface. After completing a pre-mission training program and site selection activity, students take on the roles of scientists and engineers in Mission Control to complete a mission and collect data for further analysis. Mission Control is established using software developed by the ACRI Games Technology Lab at La Trobe University using the principles of serious gaming. The software allows students to control the rover, monitor its systems and collect scientific data for analysis. This program encourages students to work scientifically and explore the interaction between scientists and engineers. This paper presents the development of the program, including the involvement of university students in the development of the rover, the software, and the collation of the scientific data. It also presents the results of the trial phase of this program including the impact on student engagement and learning outcomes.


Mathers N.,Victorian Space Science Education Center | Pakakis M.,Victorian Space Science Education Center | Christie I.,Victorian Space Science Education Center
61st International Astronautical Congress 2010, IAC 2010 | Year: 2010

The Victorian Space Science Education Centre's (VSSEC) scenario-based programs, including the Mission to Mars and Mission to the Orbiting Space Laboratory, utilise methodologies such as hands-on applications, immersive-learning, integrated technologies, critical thinking and mentoring. The use of a scenario provides a real-life context and purpose to what students might otherwise consider disjointed information. These programs engage students in the areas of mathematics and science, and highlight potential career paths in science and engineering. Research into the science of learning has shown that students absorb more information when they are presented with activities they can see, hear, touch and smell. The use of an immersive learning environment creates a memorable learning and sensory experience that helps build a deeper understanding of the concepts presented. The introduction of a scenario-based program for primary school students engages students in maths and science at a younger age, addressing the issues of basic numeracy and science literacy, and laying the foundation for senior science initiatives. The Primary Mission to the Mars Base gives primary school students access to an environment and equipment not available in schools. The immersive environment promotes high order thinking skills by requiring students to manipulate information and ideas in ways that transform their meaning and implications. The provision of curriculum-based lessons and activities for a pre-visit school-based program supports the professional development of teachers in the area of science.


Cerovac M.,King David School | Mathers N.,Victorian Space Science Education Center
Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC | Year: 2012

The Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) and The King David School (KDS) have adopted the CanSat concept and developed a program that can be delivered within the formal secondary education system to inspire and educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. In 2011 Australia competed in the international CanSat France competition, in Biscarrosse, France. The VSSEC-KDS team consisted of high school students from Years 9 through 12 and university mentors from Aerospace Engineering and Mechatronics Engineering. CanSat related activities were embedded within Mathematics, Science, and Media & Information Technology subjects. The success of the CanSat program was clearly evident amongst the high school students and their university mentors. Participation in the CanSat program influenced the subject and course selection of both groups. Students previously unsure of what tertiary courses to nominate at the conclusion of Year 12 included engineering amongst their top preferences and one of the university students is now determined to contribute to the design of the next generation of space probes. This paper presents the secondary school CanSat program, feedback from participating students, mentors and teachers, and how this program is being expanded to other schools.


Spencer P.,Victorian Space Science Education Center | Christie I.,Victorian Space Science Education Center | Pakakis M.,Victorian Space Science Education Center | Rankin J.,La Trobe University
Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC | Year: 2012

The Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) uses scenario-based learning in its Mission to Mars, Mission to the Orbiting Space Laboratory and Primary Expedition to the M.A.R.S. Base programs. The mission software associated with these programs was developed using a serious games platform which has been demonstrated as an effective methodology for developing critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity in an interactive environment. This increased interaction stimulates a deeper understanding and the generation of new knowledge. VSSEC previously developed Galactic Explorer, a serious game exploring the nature of stars targeted at the senior secondary school level for its Astrophysics program. The number of student visits to VSSEC is limited, so to move beyond this, VSSEC has worked with its university partners to develop a range of online programs that delivers the benefits of scenario-based learning using a games technology approach within a school environment. With the success of Galactic Explorer, Star Search was developed as an intelligent game-based learning environment to provide an online game that investigates many of the types of stars found in our galaxy for middle years students (grades 5 to 8). The students visit a range of stars and gather data, which they then analyse, encouraging the students to think and work scientifically and contributing to the students' conceptual understanding of the science being applied. During their exploration, students encounter a range of hazards that they must navigate to successfully complete their mission. From VSSEC's experience in using serious games, their effectiveness is enhanced when they are an integral part of a wider curriculum package. The program developed by VSSEC integrates a range of online curriculum materials, introducing pedagogical agents into a visually engaging environment, which typify high end game platforms, and embedding them in dynamically generated science narratives addresses the objectives of student achievement and engagement. This paper will present the development of the program, including the involvement of university students in the writing of the software, and the impact of embedding high yielding instructional strategies to improve student engagement and learning outcomes.


Mathers N.,Victorian Space Science Education Center | Pakakis M.,Victorian Space Science Education Center | Christie I.,Victorian Space Science Education Center
Acta Astronautica | Year: 2011

The Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) scenario-based programs, including the Mission to Mars and Mission to the Orbiting Space Laboratory, utilize methodologies such as hands-on applications, immersive learning, integrated technologies, critical thinking and mentoring. The use of a scenario provides a real-life context and purpose to what students might otherwise consider disjointed information. These programs engage students in the areas of maths and science, and highlight potential career paths in science and engineering. The introduction of a scenario-based program for primary students engages students in maths and science at a younger age, addressing the issues of basic numeracy and science literacy, thus laying the foundation for stronger senior science initiatives. Primary students absorb more information within the context of the scenario, and presenting information they can see, hear, touch and smell creates a memorable learning and sensory experience. The mission also supports development of teacher skills in the delivery of hands-on science and helps build their confidence to teach science. The Primary Mission to the Mars Base gives primary school students access to an environment and equipment not available in schools. Students wear flight suits for the duration of the program to immerse them in the experience of being an astronaut. Astronauts work in the VSSEC Space Laboratory, which is transformed into a Mars base for the primary program, to conduct experiments in areas such as robotics, human physiology, microbiology, nanotechnology and environmental science. Specialist mission control software has been developed by La Trobe University Centre for Games Technology to provide age appropriate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) based problem solving and support the concept of a mission. Students in Mission Control observe the astronauts working in the space laboratory and talk to them via the AV system. This interactive environment promotes high order thinking skills such as problem solving, team work, communication skills and leadership. To promote the teaching of science in the classroom, and prepare the students for their mission, the program includes a pre-visit program. These classroom-based lessons model best practice in effective science teaching and learning to support the development of confident primary science teachers. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

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