With more than 2,700 enrolled in its MOOC courses and hundreds of downloads in the play store, the ULS Universe project comes to an end
The growth in the field of astronomy, the constant demand of tourists to know astrotourism and the need of the community to obtain knowledge and technology dedicated to this field, converge in a positive way in an initiative that began in 2019 and that this Friday came to an end, it is the Univrso project that was executed by the University of La Serena with funds from the regional government.
What was the project about?
Univrso was an initiative that was born in the Digital Campus of the ULS (currently the Office of Distance Education) and whose mission was the creation of 4 massive online courses open to the community, related to astronomy, astro-tourism and ethno- and archaeo-astronomy. In addition to the development of a virtual reality application called Univrso, which through the Unity video game engine recreates the environment of the Cerro Tololo Observatory and allows us to emulate the astronomical observation that we could practice in the place, but from the comfort of the place where we are through a viewer or a smartphone, in addition to having a powerful scientific component supported by astronomers from the ULS.
Free online courses and VR application
The 4 Moocs that resulted as a product of this project are : General Astronomy applied to the skies of the Coquimbo region, What kind of science is developed in the skies of the Coquimbo region, General topics of astronomy and Ethno and Archaeoastronomy, these courses were recorded in the most important astronomical locations in the region and have the account of experts in the various areas covered by each one. In addition, a virtual reality application was developed in an immersive environment that allows observing constellations, important stars and planets, placing the observer in Cerro Tololo where it is possible to interact with the different elements observed and at the same time to learn about them.
Legacy for the community
Although the project has concluded its development and execution stage, the technical and human capacities are now installed in the university that will allow the development of future projects related to these fields of knowledge. According to this aspect the project director, Humberto Farias Aroca said: "From the perspective of installed capacities this project always sought to provide the institution with a team with the skills to develop virtual and augmented reality, this project was successful from this perspective since a number of engineers and designers were certified in Unity, which allows to face any project spectrum, since what changes is the approach. Regarding the community, the success was in consolidating and encapsulating institutional knowledge as high as astronomy and practical as is the case of astrotourism and offering it to the community for free."
In addition, several agents representing the various observatories in the region received an Oculus Go kit with the application preinstalled, these can be used both for educational purposes and for astro-tourism promotion.
Currently the Distance Education Office is preparing a new edition of the courses mentioned above, which will be available free of charge, and those who wish to learn about the Univrso application can download it from the android playstore.