AST 2002 Astronomy

AST 2002 Astronomy is UCF’s introductory astronomy class. It satisfies a general-education program (GEP) requirement for the Science Foundation, area 1. AST 2002 covers all topics and aspects of astronomy: the solar system, stars, galaxies, and cosmology (history of the universe). Some basic algebra is used in the course. It’s taught in-person, online, and in small Honors sections. It’s one of the most popular classes at UCF! Check it out!

NEW: AST 2002.0W61: Learn Astronomy through Gaming!

In Spring 2023, Prof. Harrington will teach a pilot section of 50 students in a new version of AST 2002 that uses an interactive video game! Some details:

There are no lectures, nor is there a text. Instead, students learn through an immersive video game, called The University of Mars, from The AstroVenture, a company started by an astronomy professor at Pennsylvania State University. She uses it to teach many thousand students each year. In fact, most Penn State students take this course!

Students pay for access to the game (currently $40). The company provides tech support and some basic help in the game. The instructor is available for weekly office hours and in a discussion forum.

Students take exams similar to those in the regular sections. As this is a pilot, there may be a research study conducted during the semester to see how effectively it teaches UCF students and whether there are improvements to be made.

The game play consists of a series of adventures and demos. When you learn about gravity, for example, you hop from platform to platform. You can change the strength of gravity by changing the mass and radius of the planet you’re visiting. Your character then jumps to different heights. Your quiz is a timed run through a series of jump platforms where you have to adjust the strength of gravity so your character doesn’t over- or under-jump. If you understand how planet mass and radius affect the strength of gravity, you’ll get through in plenty of time. If not, you can re-do the demos and re-try until you get it.

This course will take a significant time commitment of game play each week, and you have to play, even if you grow tired of it. The course grade will likely be 20% game play (time spent and scores on game quizzes) and 80% exams. The graphics are basic, so they run well on any laptop (Linux, Mac, Windows) from about the last 5 years. You’ll need 3 GB of available disk space for the game, as it’s not on the web. However, your scores are online, so you can play from different computers. You can store the game on a flash drive and play on any public computer, or even download and install it in your account on UCF computers you can access (ask permission!).

By design, there will be minimal interaction with the professor and other students beyond the help sessions and chat, as we are hopeful that we can scale this section up to many more students in the future.

If you have questions, reach out to Prof. Joseph Harrington <>.

We’ll see you on Mars!