Teachers can easily incorporate Universe Sandbox into physics or astronomy classes, as it does a good job of simulating angular momentum, gravity, kinetic motion, etc. It can be used as a demonstration tool, projected to the class to illustrate key concepts in action, or as a digital laboratory for students to design and run experiments of their own. The game is probably best played individually or in pairs at students’ own pace, as it really encourages playful exploration and rewards spontaneous testing of different ideas with immediate feedback. To help guide play, encourage students to think scientifically by designing and testing hypotheses using Universe Sandbox.
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Universe Sandbox may take the award for most literal name -- well, maybe it if were prefaced with “Amazingly Effective and Detailed.” In it, players can experiment with an immense 3-D simulation of our universe, including its galaxies, star systems, planets, moons, and comets. Players can select any of these objects, view their properties and even change them, seeing how changes impact trajectory and orbit, and how the object would interact differently with other objects. All this is presented in a gorgeous visualization with a very elegant user interface. If Copernicus and Galileo were alive today, they would surely delight in exploring the sandbox for days on end.
It does an extremely good job of helping players understand the different properties of interstellar objects and how various objects are intricately tied together. For example, students can change the mass of one of Saturn’s moons and watch as, over time, it affects Saturn and its other moons. Perhaps the best part of Universe Sandbox is how it lets players test out big experiments, like making two galaxies collide or throwing asteroids at the Earth. It begs players to just mess around and explore, learning experientially and playfully as they see big concepts and complex relationships in action.
Key Standards Supported
Earth’s Place in the Universe
Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.
Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.
Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.
Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
Construct and present arguments using evidence to support the claim that gravitational interactions are attractive and depend on the masses of interacting objects.
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