OpenSpace: An Engine for Dynamic Visualization of Earth and Space Science for Informal Education and Beyond
The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), in collaboration with informal science institutions (ISI), NASA mission teams and Subject Matter Experts (SME), and academic partners, seeks support for a five-year project to enable STEM education and improve U.S. scientific literacy by engaging a broad spectrum of the American public and STEM learners in cutting-edge NASA science and engineering content.
This project will develop an open source software, called OpenSpace, for visualizing NASA astrophysics, heliophysics, planetary science, and Earth science mission engineering activities and science results for the general public, students, teachers, and citizen scientists everywhere. The project will develop and widely disseminate OpenSpace; create innovative and networked programs with ISI partners; produce educational resources for middle and high school teachers and students; and establish robust partnerships with NASA SMD missions, ISIs, and visualization research centers.
The project is based on the success of pilot efforts to visualize the New Horizons mission and heliophysics and space weather simulation data generated by NASA Goddard’s Community Coordinated Modeling Center. It builds on AMNH’s expertise in science visualization and its record of success in partnering with NASA to develop innovative programming, exhibitions, and Space Shows that engage, inspire, and educate students, teachers, and learners of all ages.
Drawing together a highly qualified and exceptionally talented team of scientists, educators, software engineers, and visualization specialists, the project’s aim is to build a pipeline for transmitting visualized science content from across NASA SMD divisions to ISIs, secondary school classrooms, and the public.
To do so, the project proposes the following objectives:
- Develop OpenSpace into a robust and flexible interactive visualization software that supports the presentation of dynamic data sets and that is easily updated for the presentation of current science.
- Form a network of ISIs to inform the development of OpenSpace and develop associated programming to engage and educate diverse audiences.
- Disseminate OpenSpace via the web to individual users, including teachers as a key audience, with resources for leveraging it as an educational tool.
Project outcomes include:
- The establishment of a pipeline connecting NASA SMD content and SMEs with ISIs, secondary school classrooms, and the public.
- The development of a new and powerful educational tool for the visualization of a wide range of NASA SMD mission activities and data products.
- Enhanced understanding and engagement in STEM among youth, informal and formal educators, and the general public.
Project objectives, activities, and outcomes are closely aligned with, and aim to fulfill, the SMD science education objectives of enabling STEM education, improving U.S. scientific literacy, and advancing national education goals of increasing and sustaining youth and public engagement in STEM and leveraging efforts through partnerships.
Because OpenSpace will be open source, it will be freely accessible to users. It is designed to be compatible with multi-video channel cluster operations for high-resolution wall displays and planetarium domes, as well as for single-channel polar rendering fisheye projections and flat screens, in 2D and 3D. A WebGL version will make it possible for anyone with Internet access to explore OpenSpace. Another core design principle of this project is the ability to network across the Internet to synchronize displays in different locations, creating opportunities for shared experiences of high profile NASA content, including live events. This open source project will have a life far beyond the award period, as it will provide science and education communities access to the source code to modify, enhance, and extend its functionality to best serve audiences in the future.