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Explosion on Mars

Explosion on Mars places the student in the role of a geologist on the first research base on Mars. In the opening scenario, the oxygen tanks explode, causing major damage to the research base. The chief engineer, climatologist, and biochemist are killed by the explosion. The next ship from Earth is due to arrive in two weeks. The student must survive the two weeks by working on several tasks, each of which addresses an aspect of transfer of energy. Students must balance the energy needs of the base with their ability to generate power.  To do this students can repair solar arrays, deploy wind turbines, and process biodiesel fuel.   They can also shut down base systems, but must identify which are key to their survival. 



This module places the student in the role of a climatologist on board a research ship in the Pacific ocean. After the eruption of the Kikai Caldera located between the Japan’s Ryukyu Islands and Kyushu Island two days earlier, an estimated 65 million tons of sulfur dioxide and ash particles was blasted into the atmosphere. Sunlight has been blocked so temperatures have begun falling. The sulfur dioxide has been converted into sulfuric acid causing an increase in acid rain. There are disagreements within the scientific community about both the immediate and long-term effects of the eruption. Their full reports are available within the program for the students to review. In addition to evaluating the scientists’ evidence for their predictions, students will collect data on air quality, temperature, and ozone levels, and compare it with the data collected by other scientists. The student will write up a report for NOAA with their own long-term and short-term predictions supported by evidence drawn from both existing data sets and data that they themselves “collect” within the virtual environment.

Forgery Detectives

Students take on the role of apprentices with an authentication company in Cairo, Egypt, where they evaluate valuable artifacts to determine if they are genuine or simply very good imitations. The company’s clients include museums and other investors, as well as the international police organization, Interpol. The students are asked to work as part of the team to examine the various artifacts and then use the evidence that they collect in order to determine if the artifact is genuine or imitation. Students examine both physical and chemical properties of the artifacts, including density, hardness, age, and composition using virtual tools such as a triple beam balance, graduated cylinders, Mohs hardness kit, and a mass spectrometer. They then complete a report of their findings, supporting their conclusion about each artifact with evidence drawn from the data they collect using these virtual tools.



Students play the role of Dr. Waters, a geneticist tasked by the government with developing a source for Omega X, a fatty acid that can be used as a protectant against a deadly bioweapon. That source is the Rigglefish, a recently discovered species of fish rich in Omega X. Rigglefish can be red, orange, or yellow, but only the yellow ones produce high concentrations of Omega X. Rigglefish also possess some traits that make them difficult to breed in captivity, including a sensitivity to low pressure environments, sharp spikes, and their distinctive wiggle. Students work in a top-secret underwater research lab to breed a type of Rigglefish that produces Omega X and that can be farmed to provide a source for the needed protectant. To accomplish this task, students must determine, through observation and testing, the phenotypes and genotypes of fish they collect, then breed these fish to obtain the target fish.

bathysphere tanks

The Wetlands

This module is still under development. It will focus on the impact of biotic and abiotic changes within a wetlands ecosystem on the food web. During a hurricane, a species of toad escapes from a ship damaged in the storm and invades the wetlands area. The hurricane also raises salinity levels, affecting native species. Students conduct a variety of investigations to determine changes in the population levels of multiple species in the wetlands six months after the hurricane. They then construct a new food web and explain why the changes from the previous food web have occurred. Classes may also discuss whether an intervention plan is desirable.


Alien Rescue

Alien Rescue takes students to a newly operational international space station where they become a part of a worldwide effort to rescue alien life forms. A group of six species of aliens, fleeing their own planetary system, have arrived in Earth orbit. Their ship was damaged during their voyage, and except for their engines and computer databases, little of their technology continues to function. Having picked up Earth broadcasts, the aliens learned our languages and recorded a distress message to be sent once they reached Earth orbit. They then entered a state of suspended animation, where they must remain until they are safely relocated to suitable worlds. To rescue the aliens, students must learn about the planets and large moons of our solar system. They do this by searching an existing database of information and by launching probes to gather additional data.  Students learn about the key characteristics of worlds, such as gravity level, surface temperature, atmospheric composition, and the presence of a magnetic field. Students select a new home for each species, justifying their choice with evidence drawn from the data they collect.

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