I remember battling sleepiness as I slouched in a large lecture hall, squinting to make out the writing on the blackboard during my freshman introductory physics course in college. My difficulty staying alert in class was not the fault of the subject—I went on to major in physics—or even the teacher. Instead, I think it had to do with the passive format of the class and the “boring basics first” approach that introductory science courses often take.
Arizona State University (ASU) astrobiologist Ariel Anbar shares my frustrations. “I started thinking there’s got to be a better way to do this,” he says. “I envision a future where the basic intro courses are not lectures, but interactive online courses.”
Anbar and ASU staff member Lev Horodyskyj designed a course along these lines called “Habitable Worlds.” The class is an introductory science course for non-majors that covers basic biology, chemistry and physics by way of the search for extraterrestrial life in the universe. Students are introduced to the topic by looking at a star field. Their task, over the course of the semester, is to determine how many planets within that field might host intelligent life with which we could communicate. To figure this out, the students use the Drake equation—a formula designed in 1961 by early SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) proponent Frank Drake that calculates a number by multiplying many factors, such as the average rate of star formation in the galaxy, the percentage of stars with planets, the percentage of these that are habitable, and so on.
Each Tuesday is EducationTuesday here at Adafruit! Be sure to check out our posts about educators and all things STEM. Adafruit supports our educators and loves to spread the good word about educational STEM innovations!
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.