Edtech Solutions
Network Summit

Our Brightest Star: Using Innovative Technologies to Study the Sun

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Listen and learn : Snapshot

Snapshots are a pairing of two 20 minute presentations followed by a 5 minute Q & A.
This is presentation 1 of 2, scroll down to see more details.

Other presentations in this group:

Dr. Rhonda Christensen  
Dr. Gerald Knezek  

Our sun, a dynamic star, varies constantly. It also produces energy and solar wind that impact us on Earth. See how students can discover the ever-changing power of the sun through innovative technologies such as VR, 3D printed images, Helioviewer and NASA’s Space Weather Action Center.

Audience: Library media specialists, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Android, iOS
Tablet: Android, iOS
Topic: Innovative learning environments
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: Science, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

How do you create hands-on and engaging activities to teach about the Sun? Virtual reality, 3D printing and dynamic images of the Sun will be used to teach important concepts related to our dynamic star, the Sun.
Content and outcome measures will be included to measure the impact of technology on learning. Oculus Quest with two different virtual reality experiences will be shown during the session and participants may choose to experience these applications developed by NASA. 3D printed objects will be shown and the way in which they are used to teach concepts will be explained. Users will be able to access the stl files that were used to print the objects. Helioviewer will be demonstrated and participants will be shown ways they can incorporate this dynamic data tool into their classrooms for student projects.


Content related to the Sun and what causes it to be dynamic will be introduced via hands-on innovative technology resources. Specific content will include:
- The Sun produces energy.
- The Sun is the center of our Solar System and is the largest, most massive object in our Solar System.
- The Sun has dark spots, called “sunspots”. Sunspots last from days to weeks and impact the Earth.
- Energy in solar processes moves and changes form.
- The Sun has layers.
- The Sun gives off energies in the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum.
- NASA recently launched the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft to fly closer to the Sun than anyone has ever been to study the outer corona of the Sun. It will make a series of close passes to the sun over seven years.
An overview of a key concept, “What causes the Sun to vary” will be presented to the participants and focused on middle school aged student concepts and activities.
The Oculus Quest provides a virtual reality (VR) experience of flying on the back of the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) to study the Sun. Users will be able to learn more about PSP from the VR experience.
A 3D printed sun showing solar flares will be shown and the stl file will be shared with participants. An exploration profile with ways to include the tactile sun project will be provided.
Helioviewer is data visualization software of the sun. Users can create their own movies of the Sun, combine different wavelengths of images over selectable time periods, zoom in and out, crop frames, label features, and image-process the movies in real time. Users can export the finished movies in various formats.

In this 30-minute session, 10 minutes will be spent introducing the topic and how it can be taught using innovative technologies. The remaining time will be used for hands-on experiences. The presenters will model how these concepts are taught using these innovative technologies.

Supporting research

A special edition of the Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching (JCMST) ( is focused on NASA NSSEC related projects that use technology to teach space science concepts.
The Tactile Sun Project provides a guide on using 3D printed suns for education.
Helioviewer can be accessed at
How 3D printing is used at NASA for missions:

More [+]


Dr. Rhonda Christensen, University of North Texas
Dr. Gerald Knezek, University of North Texas

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