Press Release

Arizona State University Launches New Space Exploration Lessons Fueled by NASA Content

By SpaceRef Editor
March 27, 2017
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Today, Arizona State University has unveiled a new series of open, digital lessons and simulations designed to teach science through the exploration of space. Powered by NASA content and Smart Sparrow’s pioneering adaptive learning technology, Infiniscope is now available for free to educators, museum and science programs administrators, parents and students, and curious learners.

“Infiniscope provides a virtual space to connect users with cutting-edge space exploration experiences that inspire curiosity, excitement, engagement, and confidence,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and Infiniscope principal investigator.

Drawing on emerging research which shows that science is best learned through exploration rather than the rote memorization of facts, Infiniscope is a series of lessons, simulations, and virtual field trips that engage students in learning-by-doing.

“By pairing the best of technology with dynamic content and smart learning design, we’re able to help educators inspire and engage students in new ways,” said Dr. Dror Ben-Naim, CEO and founder of Smart Sparrow and professor of practice at Arizona State University. “This is an exciting example of where digital learning is headed — the best subject matter experts collaborating with creative instructional designers and engineers to create interactive experiences tailored to the needs of students.”

The first module, “Where Are the Small Worlds?,” teaches learners to use a model to make observations, analyze, and interpret evidence as they explore small worlds — bodies in the solar system that are not classified as a planet or a moon. Through a simulated exploration of the solar system in search of asteroids and other objects, participants collect data on small worlds, observe the motion of different worlds to determine their location, and launch probes to discover “astrocaches” hidden throughout the solar system. Learners are guided along individual pathways, which adapt and provide feedback as they go.

Infiniscope is supported by a $10.18 million grant from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Education Community and incorporates NASA data and subject matter experts.

“Infiniscope makes the vastness of space and space exploration inviting, accessible and interactive for educators and learners of all ages,” said Ariel Anbar, deputy principal investigator and director of ASU’s Center for Education Through eXploration (ETX). “The aim is to help learners become problem-solvers capable of exploring the unknown, rather than just mastering what is already known. Learning science should be approached as a process and as a universe of questions rather than as a dusty collection of facts.”

Infiniscope is part of the Inspark Science Network, a digital platform that empowers a global community of educators to collaborate, create, customize, and share next-generation exploratory activities. The Network is a joint initiative of ASU’s ETX and Smart Sparrow, and was launched in 2015, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to create new digital courseware that helps students who typically fail science courses succeed.

The ASU team is also led by co-Investigators Steven Semken and Sheri Klug Boonstra as well as ASU professor of practice and Smart Sparrow CEO Dror Ben-Naim. Other co-investigators include SESE’s Erik Asphaug, Jim Bell, Philip Christensen, Scott Parazynski, Meenakshi Wadhwa, Sara Imari Walker, David Williams, and Patrick Young.

The first module is available online at

For K-12 educators, the module includes a lesson guide and is aligned to the standards put out by Next Generation Science Standards, NRC Framework, and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. In addition, ASU and Smart Sparrow will continue to develop personalized and adaptive learning experiences and virtual field trips centered on astrobiology and “small bodies” such as asteroids and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. 

About Arizona State University

Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American Research University, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.

About Smart Sparrow

Smart Sparrow is an educational technology company that helps higher education institutions and companies create better courses by making them more active and adaptive. Working with Smart Sparrow, anyone can create amazingly engaging and adaptive learning experiences and then continuously improve them using learner analytics. Learners are better supported and more motivated to succeed. Smart Sparrow believes in designing tools that support great teaching and learning solutions that excite learners. Visit us at

About NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Education Community vision is to share the story, the science, and the adventure of NASA’s scientific explorations of our home planet, the solar system, and the universe beyond, through stimulating and informative activities and experiences created by experts, delivered effectively and efficiently to learners of many backgrounds via proven conduits, thus providing a direct return on the public’s investment in NASA’s scientific research.


Media Contacts: 

For Smart Sparrow:
Sarah Herring
(202) 479-7149

For Arizona State University:
Karin Valentine
School of Earth and Space Exploration
(480) 965-9345

SpaceRef staff editor.