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Space Guard Academy at Lowell Observatory

Space Guard Academy challenges cadets to learn asteroid science through a series of interactives.
Authored by
Stacy Hasselbacher
Executive Producer

Update: See our portfolio piece and video about the Space Guard Academy installation.

Ideum recently installed a series of interactives for a new exhibition at the Lowell Observatory Visitor Center in Flagstaff, AZ. The exhibition takes the form of a fictional school, Space Guard Academy, where visitors register as cadets and learn all about asteroids through a series of interactives and media pieces. As cadets progress through each interactive they add points to their score, earn higher ranks, and gather badges for specific areas of content. Cadets start out by registering for Space Guard Academy. They first choose a cadet name, and then receive a printed ID card they will use throughout the exhibition to scan in to the other activities so that their progress can be tracked.

After registration, visitors can flow freely through the space but often first encounter an application about the orbital resonances of Jupiter. Further on, the asteroid impacts interactive explores the history of asteroids hitting the earth, and then tests cadets’ knowledge of different asteroid types, how frequently they hit the planet, and how much damage they do. Other activities Ideum developed for Space Guard Academy include the asteroid photometry interactive, in which cadets learn to match an asteroid’s size and shape with its light curve. An astrographs activity simulates a blink comparator, a tool for comparing multiple images of the sky used to identify moving objects such as asteroids.

The final quiz checks knowledge about all aspects of the Space Guard Academy, and snaps a picture of the visitor “in uniform.” A final “Hall of Fame” shows off everyone’s picture, rank, score, and badges.

Space Guard Academy opened to the public on May 22, 2016 and will remain at Lowell Observatory for about a year and a half. Ideum designed and developed the tracking system, six interactives, and the “hall of fame” display in collaboration with the team from Lowell. We will share more images and details about the project soon in our portfolio.