What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Universe Sandbox is not necessarily a game. It's more a sophisticated visualization and simulation tool that helps players understand astronomy and astrophysics by letting them manipulate planetary and stellar objects in a variety of ways.
What kids can learn
Thinking & Reasoning
- part-whole relationships
- using and applying technology
Engagement, Approach, Support
Pre-set scenarios initially engage players, but after they complete them, there's no inherent incentive to keep playing.
It's an exemplary visualization tool, allowing kids to see multiple variables in action and how they interact. There are no specific objectives, however, other than to observe causes and effects.
Includes very well-scripted tutorials and a relatively active online community. It could use color-blind options for some of the visualization tools that rely on color (for example, color-coding velocity).
What's it about?
UNIVERSE SANDBOX is not a game with a story or characters. Rather, it's a 3-D simulation of our universe, accurately modeling it on many levels, from whole galaxies down to individual planets and even comets. Players are given sliders and other controls for any object they select and can change its size, mass, velocity, and orbit, among other things. This lets players quickly see how changing different properties of an object affects both its own other properties and the properties of other objects. Want to throw some asteroids at the moon? You can do that! Want to see two galaxies collide? Go for it! Ever wonder why Pluto was downgraded from a planet? Well, now you can check out how different it is from the other planets in our system.
Is it any good?
The game is very effective at what it does: allowing players to experiment in a massive open laboratory and discovering what would happen in response to any number of astronomy-related "what if" questions. The simulation is visually stunning, and the visualization tools are diverse and interesting. Universe Sandbox comes with a variety of optional scenarios and tests whether players want more direction in their sandbox play. Ultimately, however, it's just a tool, and some players may find it difficult to stay engaged for an extended period.
Families can talk about...
Families can explore some of the tool's preset scenarios/simulations.
Discuss the delicate balance of our solar system by introducing different objects into it and seeing what happens.
Extend learning by having kids make their own handmade models of the solar system or planets.