Grant Funds Virtual Mars Exploration at Florida Tech

MELBOURNE, FLA.—The Florida Space Grant Consortium has provided $12,426 to associate professor of chemistry Kurt Winkelmann to create interactive virtual laboratory experiments at Florida Institute of Technology. In this project, Winkelmann will create two such experiments based on NASA missions to Mars.
High school or first-year college students will perform tests within Second Life (SL), a popular online virtual world. These experiments will be among the first interactive laboratory experiments designed in SL. Students will be able to virtually land a Rover on Mars safely and then analyze Martian soil samples. As they complete the virtual experiments, students will learn about important topics in chemistry and how chemistry is used to solve space exploration problems.

To help achieve Florida’s goal of expanding the high-quality technical workforce needed in the space industry, this project aims to promote the achievements and goals of NASA and show students how relevant and interesting science can be. Afterwards, approximately 20 high school and college student volunteers will beta-test the experiments.

Assisting Winkelmann is Amanda Burns, Florida Tech Information Technology staff member. Two Florida Tech students will perform the computer programming necessary to create the virtual laboratory experiments.

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