Some 400 schools in the Netherlands have signed up, some 8,000 children have already experienced SpaceBuzz, and a team at Tilburg University is driving the science behind it on the topics of learning, virtual reality and awe. It is an innovative educational program aimed at introducing primary school education to the subjects of science and technology in the context of sustainability in a way that is playful and easy to learn. The program has been developed in line with the career path of a real astronaut. After children pass the pre-flight astronaut training, a 15-meter long rocket arrives at the school to virtually launch children into space. When children sit down in the rocket and put virtual reality headsets on, their chairs move hydraulically, and the rocket is launched into space under the guidance of a virtual reality embodiment of an actual astronaut. Finally, in a post-flight training at the children’s school, children give press conferences to friends and family and tell them about their experience in space. This combination of virtual reality, serious games, intelligent tutoring systems, and learning analytics drives the future of education.
In collaboration with the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) digital Society, we investigate the effect of interactive virtual reality technologies on learning gains, and the Overiew Effect in the SpaceBuzz program to map out the future of immersive interactive education. The first findings of our research have been reported in three scientific publications, in which we have shown how awe and the experience of the Overview Effect have yielded learning gains in school children.
The SpaceBuzz program pays no-cost visits to schools across the Netherlands, with 373 schools in the nation already signed up for this free program totaling over 20,000 children. Hundreds of children have already participated in the first user test experiments conducted by Tilburg University. With a visit to NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, as well as a presence at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, the SpaceBuzz rocket ship has been experienced by some 60 astronauts and some 2,000 international visitors. In the words of Iranian-American astronaut Anousheh Ansari: “I think it should be something that every human being, young and old, gets to see. Of course children will really enjoy it and will take this experience to heart, but I think we should take it to the UN and make all the world leaders do the same thing”.
SpaceBuzz, spearheaded by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut André Kuipers, and our research has been featured in national and international newspapers, national and international television, and has received two prestigious awards for its work. It is now reaching out to over a dozen countries across the world, expanding the project to other countries, impacting younger generations, policy makers, educators and researchers around the globe.
Louwerse, M., Postma, M., Horden, M. & Sluijtman, A. (2020). Rethinking education in a crisis: How new is a new common really? In Aarts, E., Fleuren, H., Sitskoorn, M. & Wilthagen, T. (eds.). The New Common, pp. 143-149. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
Louwerse, M. M., Postma, M., Van Limpt-Broers, A., de Back, T. T., Tinga, A. M., & Horden, M. (2020). Beyond the frontiers of education: How immersive media changes the way we learn. ITU Journal: ICT Discoveries, 3(1). http://handle.itu.int/11.1002/pub/8153d789-en.
Van Limpt-Broers, Postma, M. & Louwerse, M.M. (2020). Awe yields learning: A virtual reality study. Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 488-493). Texas: Austin: Cognitive Science Society.
van Limpt-Broers, H. A. T., Postma, M., & Louwerse, M. M. (2020). Creating ambassadors of planet Earth: The Overview Effect in K12 education. Frontiers in Psychology, 11.
- Two golden Spin Awards in the categories Innovation and User Experience (2020)
- Two Webby Awards (both jury and people’s choice; out of 13k applications from over 70 countries, SpaceBuzz competed with organizations such as National Geographic, NASA and BBC) (2020)
SpaceBuzz was invited to the International Astronautical Conference in Washington DC, where it featured together with Moonlander of Blue Origin.
SpaceBuzz was the only organization allowed to be present at the Planetary Convention of Space Explorers in Houston.
SpaceBuzz is one of the very few organizations that the Association of Space Explorers (a non-profit organization with a membership composed of people who have completed at least one Earth orbit in space) has endorsed.
Louwerse was asked to give the 2019 keynote at the International Telecommunication Union conference in Atlanta, a specialized agency of the United Nations.
Press releases (selection)